Praying the Psalms

As part of the pastoral prayer on Sunday, I prayed through Psalm 133. Though a short psalm, the words were actually given by God through his inspired Scripture writers to be used by the people of Israel in prayer and in worship. Those two original purposes still extend to today; as Christians, we should be using the psalms to help us pray and sing, even praying through whole psalms ourselves to God.

The concept of using already written prayers to pray may seem odd to many of us, even undesirable. We perhaps are used to thinking that anything that is not spontaneous is insincere or part of false religion. Now, we do want to worship God in Spirit and truth (John 4:24), and we also want to avoid praying with lengthy or vainly repetitious prayers (Matthew 6:7). But we must face the fact that God gave us many prayers in the Bible as both models and means for going to him genuinely and worshipfully (consider, of course, Matthew 6:9-13 as an outstanding example). The psalms are included in that group.

There are different ways one can use the psalms in prayer: you can read through a psalm and then afterward pray whatever your heart is moved to pray, you can pray through the words of a psalm exactly, or you can pray the psalm’s words and intersperse some of your own as you do so. Whatever you do, the key, of course, is to mean what you pray. Prayers, psalms included, are not to be used as magic formulas or incantations, but God hears the heart that seeks him sincerely in prayer.

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth. (Psalm 145:18, NASB)

Questions to Consider:
1. After hearing Psalm 16 preached on Sunday, how might you now worshipfully pray the words of Psalm 16 to God?
2. How can you use the diversity of the psalms to pray sincerely based on how you feel and what you’re going through?
3. How does praying through the psalms also instruct in how to pray, what to pray for, and what to expect from God in prayer?