Praying the Psalms is a spiritual discipline that Christians can do privately or corporately. The psalms are a great resource to enhance prayers in that they reveal to us ways to express our grief, our deepest longings, our needs, our hurts, as well as our joy and our praise. As we pray the psalms, we bring all aspects of our life before God. Jesus prayed the psalms and one great example is when He was at the Cross. Jesus prayed Psalm 22, “My God, my God why have You forsaken Me” (Matt 27:46) and from Psalm 31, “Into Thine hands I commend My Spirit” (Lk 23:46). In doing this we learn how to share all of life with God and to trust God in all circumstances. It is quite common to use the psalter as a prayer book and so the following suggestions may be helpful to get started.
- First, try to understand what the psalmist is writing about. Ask, what were the circumstances the psalmist is experiencing that caused him to write the psalm? How does his experience fit into your life at this moment? If the psalm does not resonate with your life now, consider how it addresses an issue in the lives of others you know.
- Second, do not rush to read the psalm. Take time to meditate upon the words. By using a centering prayer approach to listen for God prior to reading the psalm is a great way to prepare your heart.
Some people pray the psalms sequentially – they begin at Psalm 1 and each day read the following one until they have completed all 150. Then they start the process all over. A note of interest, did you know that some of our earlier abbots/abbesses have memorized the entire psalter? Word has it Saint Sabas from the Flaviana monastery in Cappadocia did this by age eight (Joseph Patrich Sabas, Leader of Palestinian Monasticism). You don’t have to memorize all 150 books but as you start reading the psalms repeatedly, you’ll begin to remember certain key phrases which you can whisper to practice the presence of God.
Exercise – Pick a psalm from the following table that the Holy Spirit is calling you to pray. Find a spot inside, your bedroom, but do it alone in a quiet place. Do not worry about doing this perfectly. Just begin. Some techniques you can use to pray include:
- Slowly read the whole psalm and make it your prayer. Reflect and journal.
- Slowly read the psalm line by line. Stop after each line to reflect, pray and journal.
- Use the psalm as a model to write out your own prayer in your journal. Copy phrases from that psalm and modify any word(s) you see fit.
|If the Holy Spirit leads you to …||Pick one psalm from the list and pray …|
|Give thanksgiving and praise||57, 92, 95, 100, 107, 136, 103-107, 111-118, 134-139, 145-150|
|Confess and forgive||32, 38, 51, 130|
|Long for God||27, 42, 63, 73, 84|
|Comfort and encouragement||4, 16, 23, 91, 121|
|Lament and grief||6, 31, 64, 73, 102, 142, 143|
|Deal with anger||35, 59, 69, 70, 109|
|The Dark Night of the Soul|
(when you feel God is absent)
|13, 22, 77|