Praying the Psalms

One of the spiritual disciples that the people of God have historically done is pray through the psalms. The psalms are a collection of songs that the people of God have sung and prayed through all of life’s ups and downs.  There are psalms of orientation that point us to the character of God as we praise Him for who He fully is.  There are psalms of disorientation that are sung and prayed as we cry out in confusion and despair, as life is difficult.  And there are psalms of reorientation that re-center and refocus us to the character and nature of God.  In all of the psalms, the focal point is the character and nature of God.  As we pray the psalms, fixating and focusing on the character of God, here’s what happens: “Our perseverance is rooted in His promise which changes our perspective.” When we pray the psalms, we see His great promises, which are based in His great character.  And that gives us perseverance and changes our perspective.

Think for a moment about the Old Testament prophet Jonah.  When he was in the belly of the whale, a definite place of crisis, in chapter 2 he cries out to God in prayer. But here’s the deal… his prayer was not a spontaneous, original prayer.  He prayed the psalms. Every part of his prayer in chapter 2 can be traced back to one of the psalms. This doesn’t mean that we don’t ever come to God in spontaneous conversation, but it does mean that God has given us these powerfully beautiful psalms to root us in who He is, what He’s done, and what He will do on behalf of His people.

Psalm 1, the very first psalm in the psalter, roots us in the practice of praying the psalms.  The very first psalm orients us to the character of God. The psalms help our roots go deep… and when the droughts come, we know where to find nourishment. When the storms come, our roots are deep within the bedrock of God’s character. As we pray the psalms, we go deep with God.

Take a psalm or a couple of verses of a psalm each day.  Read it slowly and meditate upon it. Pray through it. Journal through it. How does the psalm reveal the character and nature of God?  How does your life relate to the confession and cry of the psalmist? How do the character, nature, and promise of God change your perspective? See your life in light of what God is saying about Himself through the psalm. Give it a try… prayer through a psalm or a couple verses from a psalm this week and see how your vision and view of God is shaped as you live in those seasons of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation.  This is a key way in which we can take serious the character of God by taking serious His promise and perseverance.

2 Replies to “Praying the Psalms”

  1. You should check out Eugene Peterson’s book called: “Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer”. It is right up this alley. Good thoughts. I’ve been practicing praying thru Psalms for a while and its been a real blessing and ministered to me on such an array of levels and emotions. Bless you!

    1. thanks byron, over the years i’ve enjoyed peterson’s books on prayer and the psalms. i’ll have to check out this particular book.

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