Praying the Psalms

Orate = Praying the Psalms

Orate = Pray in Latin (Pray without ceasing)



One of the most underutilized tools we have are the Psalms. They were designed to be prayed through and sung as worship. They teach us how to rejoice and how to lament when we do not understand God’s ways, and everything in between.

In Mark 15:34, Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

If we look back to Psalm 22:1, it reads, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus prayed a Psalm in His darkest hour. If we are a follower of Jesus, and He prayed the Psalms, should not we as well?

“Lord, teach us to pray!” is our cry this week. The Lord’s Prayer is the obvious first stop, but I say Psalms is the second. Luther said of the Psalms, “It penetrates the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer penetrates it, so that it is possible to understand one on the basis of the other and to bring them into joyful harmony” (Bonhoeffer).

Gordon Wenham wrote an excellent book on praying and praising with the Psalms called The Psalter Reclaimed. If you would like to read more on the subject of praying the Psalms, I would start here, as this book helped me see the Psalms in a completely different light. Here are a few things from the book that I would like to share:

Wenham shares a Bonhoeffer quote regarding the Psalms, “The only way to understand the Psalms is on your knees, the whole congregation praying the words of the Psalms with all its strength.”

Wenham says, “The gist of the letter (speaking of a letter from church father Athanasius to Marcellinus) is that the Psalms are the best part of the Bible, and we should use them for our prayers whatever our situation may be because there is a psalm that suits our every need.”

He goes on to list reasons we should pray the psalms including praise. But he shares two very practical reasons for praying the laments: “1. Not everyone who comes to church is full of joy and happiness. 2. By praying these psalms those who have no problems or difficulties in their lives can learn to sympathize with those in trouble and pray for those who are suffering or persecuted.”

Wenham also says, “This is how we should use the Psalms: read them out loud or recite them to ourselves. But we should also use them in family worship, with our spouse, and with our children.”

Here is my challenge to you: There are 150 total Psalms. For the next 30 days, pray 5 Psalms aloud each day and see how it transforms your prayer life.

Just for today, pray Psalms 1-5.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Four….

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, and Eberhard Bethge. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1974.

Wenham, Gordon J. 2013. The Psalter Reclaimed. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway.

Image: Courtesy of wikipedia, Gerard van Honthorst, King David Playing the Harp, 1622

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