4 Ways to Pray the Psalms

Here are some tools to using them in your daily prayer life.

Posted in , Feb 25, 2021

Reading the Psalms

I remember getting my first Bible in Sunday School and discovering that when you opened it up, the Psalms were smack dab in the middle. I think that says a lot about the importance of them to our faith—they’re central. Prayer Central.

I make a practice of reading three of them every morning at the breakfast table (as I chew my oatmeal), but I have to remind myself: Rick, pray them! They’re prayers. Not only that, they’re songs. (Imagine what my wife, Carol, would say if I started singing them first thing!)

Here are some tools to using them in your prayer life.

1)  Take just a phrase. I’m not that great at memorizing long biblical passages but there’s a lot of power in holding just a line, even half a verse, in your head and praying that.

The other day I found myself waiting in front of the ticking microwave. Don’t be so impatient, I told myself. Use this time to pray. After all, wasn’t that one of my Lenten promises?

I turned to my Bible, glanced down at Psalm 16 and fixed on the phrase “You will show me the path of life…” I closed my eyes and kept running that line through my head. How powerful, how helpful, how much better than staring at my watch or rolling my eyes. “Ding” went the microwave. “Ding” went my heart.

2)  Let the words address your needs. Sometimes I’ll read the language of a psalm and wonder what it has to do with me. There’ll be all this talk of “a rod of iron” or “my enemies,” and I’ll think, I don’t have any enemies, do I, Lord?

Okay, maybe I’m not in armor getting ready for war, but there are indeed enemies I face: self-righteousness, self-doubts, times of despair, unaddressed rage. I use the Psalmist’s words to help me do battle with them.

3)  Share a verse. Twitter is a landscape of competing political viewpoints and punditry. An odd place to put a psalm. But then I think, wouldn’t the Psalmist have wanted to speak to all listeners, especially those needing prayer?

I often tweet a verse in the morning, one that speaks to me. Truth to tell, not too many people read them—no matter. I do it for myself. Sharing a verse helps me hold it in my head.

One morning when I was typing “Keep me as the apple of your eye…” (Psalm 17:8) autocorrect kept on wanting to make it “Apple.” Uppercase, a brand name. Goes to show where our contemporary priorities lie. May mine rise higher!

4)  Sing it to yourself. I was listening to a podcast where they were talking about Jesus on the cross and one of the guests pointed out that when He prayed “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He might well have sung it, as was the tradition.

All sorts of snippets of Psalms stick in my head because of having sung them. You know the old expression: “The one who sings prays twice.” Whether Jesus sung it from the cross or said it, how poignant that He turned to a Psalm for prayer.

Can we do any less?

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