Praying the Psalms- Is This the Next Step in Your Prayer Life?
The Psalms are so much more than nice poems written by long dead people. God inspired them to give us prayers to pray to Him. They tell us exactly what to pray – what He wants to hear from us. Amazing things happen when we start praying the psalms.
As a young Christian, struggling with a depression I didn’t know I had, the Psalms put into words what was going on in my head that I did not have words to explain.
I’m sure one of my mentors, people who helped me figure out what the Christian life was all about, put me on to the Psalms; however, in my thoughts they have always been a part of my prayer life.
I remember the summer after I became a Christian making a commitment to praise God everyday for at least five minutes. I was still learning the characteristics of God, so I needed help coming up with things to praise Him for. I got that help from the Psalms.
How We Can Relate to the Psalms
Relating to the psalmists, like David, and their struggles, thoughts and emotions shows us how to cope with times we are at our lowest or when we are on top of the world rejoicing.
The key is to relate to Psalms as if you were the person speaking them and writing them down for the first time. Putting ourselves before God by focusing on the thoughts and emotions, allows for God’s comfort and peace to come over us, as it always seemed to end up doing for the psalmists.
The Psalms have value in worship. They were an integral part of the Israelites’ worship and ceremonies. Psalms still fills that role today. Their value did not end in the Old Testament.
The Psalms are quoted over 100 times in the New Testament, especially as the disciples were proving the fulfillment of prophecies as they preached to those who were knowledgeable of the Scriptures. Many songwriters use Psalms as the source for their lyrics.
6 Suggestions For Praying the Psalms:
1. Read and Pray All the Psalms
To get the most from the Psalms all of them must be read and prayed through. We all have our favorite psalms and even our favorite verses within psalms. Returning to those over and over is okay, but if that’s all we do, we miss getting to the whole heart of God.
2. Speak the Psalms Out Loud
Speak the Psalm you’re reading out loud. Just like the words in a song when singing them leave a more lasting impact on us, actually speaking them drives them deeper into our hearts and minds.
3. Identify The Emotions of the Psalm
Identify the various emotions the psalmist is describing. Sometimes the situation is described and we can figure out what the emotions might be based on our own understanding of emotions.
For instance, Psalm 13 starts with, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1).
David doesn’t come right out and say it, but I think if I was in that situation with those thoughts, I’d be feeling abandoned. Other times the psalmist comes right out and says the emotion: anxious, afraid, deeply sad, and lonely. In Psalm 13:2, David says, “Having sorrow in my heart all the day.”
4. Write it Out
Write down or identify which of the feelings in the Psalm match our own in our current situation. This helps us relate to the emotions of and allows us to bare our hearts to God. This can be done using bullet points or as a paragraph in a journal.
Rewriting the Psalm in our own words, infusing it with our emotions, and praying as we go, is another good way to do this. I have journals filled with my various re-writings of the Psalms. For each Psalm, I have written out and prayed differently as the Psalms seem to fit the need of the moment.
5. Identify the Characteristics of God
Identify the characteristics of God. In Psalm 13:5-6 several of God’s qualities are mentioned: “But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6) Make a list and keep it to refer to any time praise is needed or wanted.
6. Read the Psalms to the End
Read the Psalm to the end. There is a pattern in most of the Psalms. The complaints, the laments, the raw, very human, emotions are expressed in the beginning (or sometimes in the middle) of the Psalms. Then there’s a switch to praise and thanksgiving.
It is sometimes hard to figure out what made the difference for the psalmists. Possibly it is a nudge from the Holy Spirit to remember God and get us off of thinking only about ourselves.
When such a switch is needed and I can’t figure out what’s good in a situation, reading and meditating on a Psalm reminds me of God’s character and qualities and my attitude can also be adjusted.
Praying the Psalms: Other Resources
There are whole books written on this subject, as well as many articles on the Internet, if you are seeking more ideas.
My personal recommendation is Intimacy with God, by Cynthia Heald. I did this study at a time when I was having trouble feeling close to God.
I meditated and prayed through the lessons, and my intimacy with God was sparked again, as well as a new sense of attachment to the various psalmists.
Need something to praise God for? Read a Psalm and remember all He is and all He has done for us.