Praying the Psalms

By Dave Henning / January 27, 2015

In Chapter 15 of Prayer, Timothy Keller expands on the ancient practice of “Praying the Psalms”, noting that from earliest times the church adopted the Psalms as its prayer book.  Pastor Keller cites a letter from Athanasius to Marcellinus:

“Whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book [the Psalms] you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you . . . can learn to remedy your ill . . . . Under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls’ need at every opportunity.”

Pastor Keller adds that “Praying the Psalms” (a) teaches our hearts the “grammar” of prayer and (b) teaches us how to pray in accordance with God’s character and will.  The author then describes four methods for praying the Psalms:

1.  Verbatim praying.  Since many of the Psalms already are written as prayer from the author to God, we simply can pray them as written.

2.  Paraphrase and personalize the Psalm.  Pastor Keller states that this is perhaps the most common way to pray.

3.  Responsive praying.  Many of the Psalms are lengthy or consist more of teaching than praying.  In this method we take themes and/or statements and let them stimulate adoration, confession, and supplication.

4.  Pray the Psalms with Jesus in mind.  When considering a specific Psalm, imagine how Jesus would have thought about it, knowing who He was and what He came to do.  This can unlock the power of the Psalms for our prayer life.

Today’s question: Have you ever experienced “Praying the Psalms”?  How did this enrich your prayer life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Your soul boat”

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Dave Henning

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