Discipleship Friday: Praying the Psalms

by Morih Felder on May 15, 2020

What are the Psalms?

The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 songs and prayers written by different authors over the course of many years. It is the prayer book of the Bible, made up of hymns, individual and communal laments, and individual and communal prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

Why Pray the Psalms?

The Psalms teach us how to pray. It gives us language for our own prayer. In seasons where praying seems hard or if you're new to prayer and don’t know what to say, the Psalms can help us to find the words to say to God. It expresses the range of human emotion and shows us that we can bring those emotions to God. You can find everything from love, joy and thanksgiving to sadness, anger, and longing in Psalms. John Calvin called the Psalms an “anatomy of the Soul” and said that it contains “all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities” of a person’s mind.

The Psalms teach us what to pray for. They can shape how we approach God and what we believe about God. The way we pray shapes what we believe, which in turn shapes who we are as followers of Jesus. The Psalms remind us of the truth of God’s character in the midst of our trials and that God is an ever present help in times of trouble.

The Psalms of lament show us how to wrestle with God and difficult circumstances. They teach us that it is okay to be sad, angry, and even to question God while still seeking God in faith and trusting in God’s character. The Psalms of thanksgiving give praise to God for who God is and/or for how God brought deliverance from trouble. They teach us how to praise God. Over time praying the psalms trains our minds to remember God’s faithfulness in the midst of suffering and to praise Him for His mighty works. 

How to Pray the Psalms

  • Read a psalm in a day or over a week and meditate on it, taking it line by line. Think about what it means and apply it to your own situation.  Try to make this practice a regular part of your time with the Lord for a season
  • When you are lost for words in prayer, find a psalm that speaks to your situation and read it back to God
  • Using the Psalms as a template, write your own psalm of lament or thanksgiving based on the format found in scripture


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