Praying the Psalms

Be filled with the Spirit by reciting psalms, hymns,

and spiritual songs for your own good. Sing

and make music to the Lord with your hearts.

EPHESIANS 5:18-19

 

CONSIDER WHAT THE MOST respected church fathers, especially Athanasius and Augustine, taught about using psalms. They said we should adapt and adjust our minds so that we are in tune with the psalms. We must sing the psalms with the help of the Holy Spirit. They are like a school for the attitudes of the heart.

For example, when you read in Psalm 1, "Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people," you must actually reject the advice that wicked people give you. When you read, "He delights in the teachings of the LORD," you shouldn't take it easy and pat yourself on the back as if you were a person who already loved the Lord's teachings. For as long as you live, you will need to think of yourself as a person who desperately needs to love God's teachings even more. When you read, "He succeeds in everything he does," you should wish this for yourself and feel sorry for those who find themselves in trouble.

Don't think that you are being asked to do the impossible. All you need to do is try, and I know you will be glad you did. First, practice on one psalm or even one verse of a psalm. You will be successful as soon as you have learned how to make just one verse come alive and live in your heart - even if it takes a day or a whole week. However, after you begin, everything else will follow naturally, and you will find a rich treasure of insight and love. Just be careful you don't let weariness and discouragement prevent you from getting started.


Martin Luther, By Faith Alone, World Bible Publishers, Inc., entry for Sept. 23 (copyright 1998). This is presented here for religious and educational purposes only. This one page of text out of a book of over 365 pages is used in reliance on the Fair Use Doctrine of the United States Code, 17 USC 107.

[If traditional Catholics are concerned about listening to a non-catholic recall what the church teaches. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 838 and 818 which says: "All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."]


An excellent way to confront ourselves with the words of the psalms is through the Liturgy of the Hours. During this prayer we pray several different psalms at various times of the day and they change from day to day. This allows you to experience all the psalms wisdom eventually. As you pray some word or phrase or idea from a psalm will "speak" to you. This prompting of the Holy Spirit becomes your topic of meditation and is the "school for the attitudes of the heart" Luther recommends. See Universalis on the Liturgy of the Hours, Praying with the Monks at Blue Cloud Abbey, or the daily office of the Book of Common Prayer or the psalter of the book of Common Prayer. Catholic translations of the Psalms include the New American Bible and the Grail, which is used in the Catholic English Language Liturgy of the Hours. Older Catholic bibles used the Douay-Rheims version. Finally, you can follow the links on the Liturgy of the Hours in our page Awaken to Prayer.

For introductory information see the Psalms in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Psalms: A Prayerbook for Everyone, and for more detailed information on the psalms see The Prayer-book of God.

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