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The Psalms Teach Us to Pause and Pray

Pausing for a moment or two in the course of your day can increase an awareness of God’s presence and a sense of His closeness.

Taking a pause throughout your day can help you feel more aware of God.
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If you’ve ever read much in the Psalms, the prayerbook and hymnal of ancient Israel, you’ve come across a word that gives many Bible scholars pause. Literally.

The word is “selah.” It occurs frequently in the Psalms. For example, it occurs three times in Psalm 3, after verse 2, verse 4 and at the end of the Psalm. It appears twice in Psalm 4, after verses 2 and 4. In fact, “selah” is used 71 times in the Psalms.

But no one knows for sure what the word means. Many think it was a musical instruction, since 31 of the 39 psalms that are addressed “To the choirmaster” use the term. Thus, it may have been used to indicate a musical interlude or pause in the music. 

Whatever “selah” meant to ancient Israelites, it can be a part of your prayer life. You can turn pauses into prayer. For example, as you end a phone call in the middle of your workday, pause for a moment; inhale deeply as if inviting God’s presence to infill you, and then exhale slowly while imagining Him going ahead of you into the rest of your day.

Or while driving, when you come to a stop sign, instead of rolling through the intersection as you usually do, leave your foot on the brake for a moment while you inhale deeply and exhale slowly.

You can enjoy a “selah moment” before speaking to a friend, coworker or group. You might even interrupt a business meeting or a shopping excursion with such a pause.

Even without words (though of course there’s nothing wrong with adding a spoken prayer at such times), a “selah moment” or two—or more—in the course of your day can increase an awareness of God’s presence and a sense of His closeness.

Such pauses can have an added effect such as relieving stress, increasing your composure or—in the case of the stop sign—avoiding a traffic citation.

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