Praying the Psalms is a great way to develop your prayer language and pray God’s Word back to him. Keep reading to learn how to pray the Psalms, some of the best Psalms to pray, and how using Psalms to pray will enhance your prayer experience.
Praying God’s words back to Him is a powerful way to pray
How often do you use the Psalms in your prayers? The Psalms are God’s own prayer book for us and are a great way to pray God’s words back to him.
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.
What are the Psalms?
Psalms is a book right in the middle of your Bible with 150 songs and prayers of praise, lament, anguish, request, confession, thanksgiving. While these were initially sung, they are poetry we can use to sing, pray, and praise God from the depths of our hearts.
Maybe you’ve always loved the Psalms and pray them regularly. Or maybe, like me, you’ve shied away from this poetry, not really sure how to use them?
Either way, I want to encourage and inspire you to go deeper with the Psalms and use them regularly in your prayers.
Praying the Psalms: 4 Ways to Use God’s Prayer Book
So, how can you incorporate the Psalms into your daily prayers? Let’s look at four ways you can use God’s prayer book – the Psalms – in your own prayers to expand your prayer language by praying the Psalms.
#1: Pray through the book of Psalms in order.
One of the most ancient spiritual practices is reading the Psalms. Monastic orders routinely recite the Psalms, etching their words deeply into the fabric of their lives.
With 150 Psalms, though, this can feel daunting to most of us today. However, praying through the book one by one can be just as valuable.
One method of praying the Psalms is to read (and pray) one each day, working your way from one of the book to the other.
Not only will you develop your prayer language and learn these beautiful Psalms, but you’ll also broaden your prayers to include topics you may not have otherwise prayed that day.
#2: Use a Psalm for Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina is one of my favorite prayer methods. While we often are drawn to the Gospels for Lectio Divina, the Psalms are also a great way to hear God.
Not sure how to pray Lectio Divina? Click here for more on how to pray Lectio Divina.
#3: Use topical Psalms as a base for your prayers.
As you learn the Psalms, you may be drawn to certain ones for various needs. You may have a favorite lament for days of grief, a favorite Psalm of praise, or one you find great comfort on the hard days. Keep a list of your favorites for different times and pray those as needed.
Memorize one if you’re going through a tough season and call upon it frequently.
#4: Sing the Psalms.
The Psalms were originally songs, so why not sing them as prayer? You can find music for each of the Psalms in various hymn books. Or, use more familiar music – hymns or contemporary worship songs – that are based on the Psalms.
Need help finding music to sing the Psalms? Try these sources:
- WordToWorship.com is my go-to reference site to find songs based on particular scriptures (or to look up scriptures referenced in a particular song).
- Psalter.org has music from several different sources for each of the Psalms. These will be the more traditional music arrangements for the Psalms that you may hear in church.
- Seedbed Psalter has a great site to encourage you to sing the Psalms. You can find the lyrics (text of the Psalm), listen to the music, and get the sheet music / chords to play it yourself.
- The Psalms Project is a more contemporary take on the Psalms. Find modern worship music for Psalms 1-30.
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.
Additional Resources for Praying the Psalms:
Free study guide to pray through Psalm 1 & 2:
Ready to get started praying the Psalms? Use this devotional to guide you in using Psalms 1 & 2 to prepare your heart for prayer.
How to personalize the Psalms in your prayers:
- 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! Amen.
Ideas for choosing a Psalm to pray:
You can choose your Psalm in different ways.
1) Keep a list of favorite Psalms or Psalms for special occasions
Maybe you are familiar with the book and have a favorite one or one you know will speak to your situation that day.
2) Allow God to direct your choice
Simply open your Bible to the book of Psalms and pray the first one you see.
3) Pray from the Lectionary selections
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.
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.
What is the Lectionary?
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.
You can find the listing of weekly lectionary readings at www.lectionarypage.net.
Learn more about praying Psalms:
Praying the Psalms @ calllutheran.edu
Pray a Psalm in its Nature Setting @ SoulShepherding.org
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.
Hi Kathryn–we share a name and a love for the Lord, though I have always loved poetry and it is one of my favorite genres within which to write. I love the drama of the Psalms and they are perfection in prayer. A great post here–thanks for sharing. AND, the psalm you shared at the end truly blessed my heart in light of current events. Visiting from Lyli’s place . . .
Great name 🙂 Glad you stopped by and glad this spoke to you. I definitely have discovered a love for the Psalms through this prayer technique. It’s a way to force me to take them slowly and really read the words.
Amanda Jones says
I love how you walk through the how-tos for those who have never tried this and share the value of praying the Psalms.
Donna Reidland says
Kathryn, thanks for another get post on prayer. There is great power in praying the Psalms. It’s so encouraging to read how our spiritual ancestors experienced the same struggles, yet were able to come to that “but God” moment. Visiting from Thought Provoking Thursdays. Blessings!
Thank you so much for your thoughts today! I just love how the human condition remains so much the same over the centuries. We still have the same kinds of struggles they did – and these prayers are still relevant today.
Mary Geisen says
I agree with you about studying poetry in high school. I never thought I understood it like my classmates. They found things in the poems that I never could! 🙂 However, I do love the psalms and find that God reaches me more authentically many times through these prayers. Thank you for sharing at The Weekend Brew.
Robin Pantermuehl says
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on praying the Psalms. One of the difficulties I used to have with the Psalms was the difference between the violence and retribution in some of them and the love that Jesus taught – even for your enemies. Then I found Nan Merrill’s “Psalms for Praying – an Invitation to Wholeness.” In her version of the Psalms, God is called Love and Beloved and all the Old Testament struggles that we have today are viewed through the New Testament lens of love. I love praying and meditating on them with love! I highly recommend this version of the Psalms for meditation, prayer and encouragement.
Eleanor Speakman says
My friend and I have been reading a Psalm and a chapter of Proverbs each day and emailing each other briefly with our thoughts and prayers. Where exactly can I find a song for each Psalm?
Great question! I’ve just added a list of online resources to find songs (traditional and contemporary) for each of the Psalms. I think you’ll love adding in a song to your reading of Psalms!