Why and How To Read the Psalms

by Pastor Dave on November 14, 2013

Greetings Fellow Journeyers,

It’s been awhile since we have blogged about our shared Journey through the scriptures.  Sorry about that, life gets a little full sometimes, I’m sure you can relate.  Hope you are still enjoying the journey and reading along.  If you have fallen off, no worries, like falling off a bike or horse, just get back on and ride!  Today I will simply share some, hopefully helpful, introductory material on the Why’s and How’s of reading the Psalms.  (I know, would have helped to have this a few weeks ago, but better late than never- right?)…  If you have thoughts or questions I don’t address… Fire away!

What are the Psalms?  The word Psalm means song or sacred hymn.  So the Psalms in a very real way were originally meant to be sung, they were a kind of Jewish song book.  However, more accurately, they are a book of prayers.  The Psalms are ultimately a book of common prayer that teaches us to pray all through the different seasons of life.  The Psalms really are not only a book of prayers, but a manual that teaches us to pray.  There are 2 basic types of Prayers:  1) Help me prayer – or laments.  2) Thank-you prayers, or Psalms of praise.

Why Read the Psalms?  We are all probably at different places when it comes to how we feel about reading the Psalms.  Some of us may love the Psalms – they are like a trusted friend and we go to them often for encouragement, guidance and inspiration.  Others of us might dislike the Psalms – like a station on the radio that we don’t like – country, heavy metal, hip hop, easy listening or whatever isn’t your cup of tea or doesn’t quite float your boat.  Some of us might just be a bit ambivalent – you might think, “I don’t know, I don’t really get them, or I’m not really all that into poetry, or music, not sure if they are my thing?”  I hope what follows is helpful, particularly if you are in the last two groups I described.

Here’s why I would suggest we read the Psalms:  The Psalms are God’s gift and tool to help us pray!  Learning to pray is like learning a language.  How does a child learn language?  They learn first by listening to their parents.  Then they begin to form words and sentences to communicate what their needs are.  The Psalms are great because they are God’s words to us, but they are also our words to God.  We may not always know how to pray or what to pray, but the psalms help to give language to our prayers in every kind of circumstance we may be in.

How To Read the Psalms:  I would suggest kind of a 3-step process for reading the Psalms…

  1. Read Them.  First simply read and enjoy the Psalm.  Kind of like taking a walk…  What do you notice about the Psalm?  What is the mood?  Is it a lament or psalm of praise?  What strikes you about the Psalm?  What is happening?
  2. Pray ThemRemember, the Psalms are prayers, to teach us to pray.  So I would encourage you simply to pray them back to God.  For example, today’s Psalm – Psalm 23 is one of the most beautiful Psalms in the Bible.  Notice how personal it is…  The Lord is my shepherd; I have all I need.  He lets me rest in green pastures, he leads me beside peaceful streams….  Simply pray the Psalm back to God and personalize it.  Pray, “Lord, thank you that you are my shepherd today, that you lead and guide me, and provide for all my needs.  Thank-you for the rest and peace you give me in the midst of the storms and challenges of life…”  – something like that.  Pray the Psalm back to God in a personal way.  Jesus did this all the time – even when he was on the cross (Psalm 22)
  3. Apply Them.  Then pay attention to how the Holy Spirit might be speaking to you in the Psalm.  Today in Psalm 23 I was struck most by v. 6… Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.  Wow, the God of the universe pursues me, and wants to show me his goodness, and unfailing love.  This led me to pray a simple prayer…  God, Thank-you for your pursuing grace and love for me!  Cause me to be aware of your great love for me throughout this day, and to trust you as my good shepherd to lead and guide me in every decision, action, interaction and plan of action I have today.  I trust you good Shepherd!

Enjoy the Psalms my friends, and may they lead you into a deeper and richer life of prayer!

If you have thoughts or reflections, make sure to pass them along!

Blessings on the Journey!

Pastor Dave

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