My least favorite part of high school English class was the poetry, and goodness was there a lot of poetry. Seems like every week we’d have to read another poem. I wanted to read through the poems as quickly as I read other books, but poems insist you linger and soak in the words to find your own meaning and relevance.
The Bible has its own book of poetry, Psalms. I hear people talk about how this is their favorite book in the Bible and how they are drawn to particular Psalms, but it’s the book I always skip over. I’d rather get caught up in the narratives and teachings within other books. That is, until I began praying the Psalms…
Extemporaneous prayer – praying from your own heart, with your own words – is wonderful and a great way to have conversation with God. But, what if you’re not sure what words to pray? What if you’re not confident in how to get started? What if you want to experience something more from your prayers?
Praying God’s words back to Him is a powerful way to pray
The book of Psalms is a great place to start praying scripture. Within the Psalms, every human emotion is covered, from grief, despair, and confession to praise, joy, and thanksgiving. Timeless laments and evergreen praises, words that have been sung and prayed for thousands of years. Ancient words that still speak to our lives today.
How to use the Psalms as your prayer book:
Choose a Psalm and read through it. Then, read it again, lingering over the words that speak to your heart. Soak in the emotions and the hope of God’s promises.
As you connect with the words in the Psalm, begin to say those words to God in prayer. Pray for yourself and for others using the words of the Psalm.
Write out your own prayer from the verses that spoke the most to you.
Below is an example using Psalm 22. Read through Psalm 22 first and then read this prayer. See how you can use the words in the Psalms to pray for yourself and for others.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.
For you have not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; you have not hidden your face from me, but have listened to my cry for help.
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.
They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
How to choose a Psalm to pray:
You can choose your Psalm in different ways. Maybe you are familiar with the book and have a favorite one or one you know will speak to your situation that day. Or, simply open your Bible to the book of Psalms and pray the first one you see.
Another option is to pray from a daily or weekly list of selected Psalms. I’ve always wanted to just randomly open my Bible and have that experience of seeing just the right passage. Sometimes it works for me, but I often find it difficult to trust the random page turning. Instead, I’ve found using the lectionary to be a similar process, yet with some order.
Using the Lectionary to choose your Psalm
The Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year cycle of weekly scripture selections used by a majority of Protestant churches in the US and Canada and also closely follows the lectionary used by the Roman Catholic Church. It generally includes a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from one of the Gospels and a reading from the Epistles. The readings are built around the seasons of the Church Year, which reflects the life of Jesus.
One of the things I love about using the Lectionary to select Psalms and scripture for my prayers is that I’m more connected to the scripture used in my church service on Sunday. I have prayed or studied the scripture I’ll hear read or preached on Sunday. It’s my way to go deeper in the message that week.
You can find the listing of weekly lectionary readings at www.lectionarypage.net. I also have them posted in the sidebar of this page.
There are also calendars for praying Psalms, outlining particular Psalms you can pray each day of the month. These take you through all the Psalms in 30 days, so it can seem a bit overwhelming, but just choose one of the selections for the day you’re praying.
Grow your prayer language through the Bible’s poetry
What are you waiting for? Open your Bible to the Psalms and get started. You’re sure to find a Psalm there to cover anything you’re facing, anything you want to bring before God. David and the other authors of Psalms faced it all and their raw emotions are spilled out on the pages. What better place to start growing our prayer language than the Bible’s own book of poetry, full of all human emotion and all spiritual hope.
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PRAY DEEP CHALLENGE: Pray a Psalm today. Try starting with Psalm 86. Read the words aloud, slowly. Read them as a prayer to God and think how they apply to you. Write out your own prayer from the verses that spoke the most to you.
This post is part of the “Pray Deep” series. For more information on the series, click HERE.