Psalm 23 Without the Shepherd

Psalm ‎23– a beautiful, and very well known, description of what life looks like walking with our Great Shepherd.

I hate to admit this, but I have heard this Psalm so much over years that it has become stale. My brain categorizes it as something I already know, so the words just pass over my ears, rarely ever making it to my mind or my heart. How sad‎! This past week, my eyes saw this Psalm in a new and beautiful way. I hope you can see that too. Even if you don’t read the rest of this blog, just take a look at the end!

So, before I get to the beautiful part, it might look a little ugly first.

Lately, I’ve been reading the book A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller (highly recommend btw!). It has challenged and renew my prayer life, which has been dismal at best these past few years.

The chapter I am currently in talks about how prayer is a way to live, not just something to do. Prayer is walking through our days with our Heavenly Father, our Great Shepherd, not something we awkwardly get on our knees to do once a week while reciting memorized words.

However, we like to do life on our own. We are taught to dwell only in the reason and rational of reality. X happened because of Y, and here is the physical evidence and proof for it. While this is a good thing and has its place, this has become our god we pray to. When something happens, we cry out to the god of cause and effect to show us the answer.

The Post-Christian West has forgotten that for every physical thing there is a spiritual reality behind it. 

There is a Creator behind each and every living and non-living thing. There is an unseen enemy that is seeking to deceive and to kill and to destroy. There is an all-wise and all-powerful God who has written a story of redemption that is playing out in each and every second of our lives.

Most Christians claim this as truth, but they live like an atheist, bowing down only to reason and rational in their every-day lives.

They are Christian in name and atheist in practice.

They are practical atheists.


Sorry, I mentioned it would get a little ugly first. Now circle back around to Psalm 23.

This Psalm is a beautiful portrait of what it looks like to walk day-by-day in communion with the Father. Prayer isn’t just some forced words, but a life that recognizes the spiritual reality of our physical circumstances.

What does our daily life look like when we don’t acknowledge the Creator and Sustainer and Redeemer of all life?

In A Praying Life, Miller really gets his point across when he does something I’ve never seen before. He took Psalm 23, and he ripped it apart. Miller took out everything that had to do with the Shepherd. Take a look:


What is left? It’s pretty unappealing.


Is this your life?

Are you consumed with me, myself, and I?

Are you feeling empty and unsatisfied because of it?

Are you consumed with fear?

Hardships are all you know?

No hope to cling to?


Does your life look more like Psalm 23?

Or the Shepherdless Psalm?

Sheep don’t hang out most of the week on their own, only checking back in with the big boss once a week back at the farm. The Great Shepherd invites us to walk with him. Even though our Western culture has laid some deep habits in us, we cannot continue believing in the name of Jesus and claiming his as our Shepherd but living like an atheist looking always to reason and logic to navigate life. If we believe in the Almighty, All-Powerful God who creates and sustains all things, our life should reflect it. We can’t do life on our own, or it will be a miserable affair, like we see in the Psalm without the Shepherd. There is a God who is actively involved in the daily lives of his “sheep”, and he wants to lead us through the pastures, the waters, and the valleys. Will you let him?


(A Masaai shepherd in Kenya, faithfully tending to his flock)

If you answered the later, do not despair. There is hope. Just read here and see God’s heart for you. God invites all of us to join his flock, gaining his protection, his provision, and his promises. Do not delay. Come.


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