Praying Through the Psalms

For two decades, I worked with a short-term mission group called World Changers. It’s not connected to the church by that name in Atlanta, this was a mission ministry that helped small churches involve their youth and college students in projects like home repair for low income, older homeowners on fixed incomes, work for community agencies like food banks and child care facilities, or helping brand new churches with outreach and evangelism.

It was during worship one evening at one of the projects that the speaker challenged everyone to pray using the book of Psalms. Using whatever translation with which you are comfortable, the idea is to pray the words back to God without interruption. Don’t interrupt the words with anything else, not your own petitions or intecessory prayer requests, just the words from each Psalm going back to their author through your spirit. Of course, you can have other prayer times, but during your Psalm prayer, focus just on those words.

You will find that the prayers line up perfectly with “your will be done.” There are things in the Psalms that you ask God to do that are also needs you have personally, as well as places where you are interceding for others whose names you have in mind as you pray. Sometimes knowing what you need to pray isn’t easy to figure out, but each Psalm will lead you right there, to that place. God answers these prayers, too.

I will sing of loyalty and justice to you, O Lord. I will sing. I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it?

That’s from Psalm I0I:I. Think about God answering that prayer.

All of the elements of prayer are in each Psalm. There is praise and thanksgiving, petition for spiritual growth and development, confession, repentance and asking for forgiveness, the perspective that should exist between us and God. And when I started it, it seemed like whatever Psalm I was praying on a particular day would match what was going on, what I needed and what I might have prayed anyway. And you get a new, fresh perspective every time you do it. After the first time, I set it aside for a while but eventually went back to it because the book itself is so rich in its content, that it is difficult to set it down.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm I03:I0

This is more than just a means of making sure you are self-disciplined spiritually when it comes to your prayer life. It has a way of becoming your primary means of prayer because it works so well.

And of course, plan ahead for Psalm II9. It’s a lot to pray in one sitting. The first time I tried this, I did go all the way through. But the next time, I slowed up and took it I0 to I2 verses at a time because there’s so much in there, I didn’t want to miss anything. It takes a while to read through all of it but that’s OK when it’s prayer time.

Over time, you will become familiar with the pattern and flow of the book and can anticipate what is coming in which Psalm. That changes the prayer time a little bit but it still works the same. And even though this is the very heart of the Old Testament, as you read and pray, you can sense the presence of Jesus even though he isn’t mentioned by name.

This is a good time to start. Grab your Bible and get started.

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