Our prayer life is one of the most important aspects of our relationship with Christ and it is often neglected. Why? Because we often don’t know how to pray. While prayer is a huge topic what I want to focus on is praying the Psalms and how we can use the words from scripture when we don’t have all the words ourselves.
What is Praying the Psalms?
What is praying the Psalms? I’m going to use my own recent experience to show you what I’m talking about.
I have been in a state of high anxiety and stress for the last month. I’m agitated, frustrated, not sleeping, and my migraines have returned with a fury.
One night (of course when I should’ve been sleeping) I started to cry. As I sobbed, I could feel all of the stress pouring out of me. Truth be told, I should’ve given myself the space for this relief sooner but I’m one of those people who “handle it” and are always “fine”.
The next morning I awoke worn out but much calmer. I tried to pray about the emotions that had overwhelmed me and couldn’t find the words. I opened my Bible app and this was the verse.
I waited patiently for the Lord, And He inclined to me And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. (Psalm 40:1)
This is exactly what I had just experienced. David knew. He took the words from my heart and explained them THOUSANDS of years ago. As I continued to read through the Psalm I could feel my heart in agreeance with David. He was thanking God for me, he had words that I didn’t.
Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered. (verse 5)
Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of my head; Therefore my heart fails me. (verses 11 and 12)
I began to use David’s words in my own prayer. He understood me.
But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God. (verse 17)
Comfort and relief filled my heart as I connected with God. If you are experiencing a need for a closer connection to God, this will help you.
Why do We Pray the Psalms?
Man has not evolved much since the Bible was written thousands of years ago. We may think we have. Our advances in technology and science lead us to believe we are somehow smarter and more capable than those included in God’s word.
But when you take a good look, we are the same. We still experience the same fears, joys, grief, excitement, anxiety, and gratitude that our ancestors did centuries ago. The core of man is still the same. Our desires and needs have not changed.
We still cry at the death of a loved one and rejoice at the birth of a new one. We marvel at the miracles of creation and seek to connect with our creator.
We can reach back through the years and join hands with those who looked up at the stars and rejoiced in the greatness of God. We can embrace those women whose empty wombs had them sobbing and begging God for a child. We can battle alongside those who put their trust in God rather than man and lastly, we can sacrifice our lives for the one who died for us.
The Psalms are full of the emotional side of man. You can hear repentance, joy, awe, and fear in these lines of poetry. Many are prayers directly to God asking for deliverance or protection. Many are simply praises to the one true God.
Whatever you are experiencing, there is a Psalm for that! When we don’t have the words to pray on our own, we can find them in these pages.
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How do You Use the Psalms to Pray?
So, how do you use the Psalms to pray?
There are different ways to go about this. You could read a Psalm a day and make those words a prayer. It is amazing how they often will apply to what you are going through. For example:
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3)
Your prayer then would be “Lord, make me like a tree planted by the rivers of water. Help me to bring forth fruit. Give me the strength and courage to walk in your ways. Make the ungodly known to me and help me avoid their sinful ways.”
You would then turn to the second Psalm the next day and turn that one into a prayer.
Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? (Psalm 2:1)
Oh goodness! If you are frustrated with today’s politics, this Psalm is for you! Keep reading, there is a prayer in here yet.
Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. (verses 10 and 11)
Our prayer would then be “Dear God, you are ruler of all and supreme authority over every leader. Make our leaders wise to your word, instruct them in your ways, and lead them into truth. May your will be done in their offices.”
Alternatively, you can seek Psalms out by topic. I’m working on a series and will have links for you soon, but here are few to get you started.
- Protection: Psalm 91
- Repentance: Psalm 51
- Comfort: Psalm 46
- Grief: Palm 16
- Praise: Psalm 145
- Thanksgiving: Psalm 34
Who Wrote the Psalms?
Growing up, I thought David wrote the Psalms, but come to find out he didn’t write them all.
While David did write half of the Psalms, let’s find out a little about the other authors.
The family of Asaph wrote 12 Psalms. Psalm 50 and Psalms 73-83. The family of Asaph was ordained by David to lead the people in worship. Later, when the children of Israel return from the Babylonian captivity, Nehemiah recommissioned them.
Moses wrote Psalm 91.
Solomon wrote Psalm 72 and Psalm 127.
Ethan the Ezrahite wrote Psalm 89.
The sons of Kora wrote 11 Psalms. Psalms 42, 44-49, 84-85, 87-88. The sons of Kora have an interesting history. We first find them in the book of Numbers where Kora rebels against Moses and is punished by God (one of those scary, the ground opens up and swallows him up kind of stories!) but his children survive and serve the Lord.
Heman coauthored Psalm 88 with the Kora family.
Ethan the Ezrahite wrote Psalm 89.
50 Psalms do not have a known author. It is possible that they all have the same author, but the general consensus is that they were written by various people down through the years.
How Many Psalms did David Actually Write?
So how many did David actually write? 73 for sure, possibly 85.
- Psalms 3–9
- Psalms 11–41
- Psalms 51–65
- Psalms 68–70
- Psalm 86
- Psalm 101
- Psalm 103
- Psalms 108–110
- Psalm 122
- Psalm 124
- Psalm 131
- Psalm 133
- Psalms 138–145
A Final Word on How and Why You Should be Praying the Psalms
Praying the Psalms will benefit you in so many ways. Not only will they give you the words you need to pray, but they will open your heart to praying many things you might not have thought of on your own. These words will become a part of you, your thoughts, and your words.
There is no denying that the Bible is the LIVING word of God!
For a deeper study on Psalms 1-30 check out Ladies Drawing Nigh study and journal.