Praying the Psalms
28 May 2010
When thou recitest thy canonical hours...recite them thyself leisurely...Every verse of them that thou recitest, expound their texts minutely; speak in thine own character exactly, and fix on them thine entire understanding; then thou shalt receive thy request from the King of the stars...
- Anonymous, Life of Colman Eta (Irish, 17th century, from an earlier ms.)
And when they heard it they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them..."
- Acts 4.24
Try this sometime: When you're with a group of Christian friends, say loud enough for all to hear, "Hey, guys, let's sing a little praise to the Lord." Then just start singing, oh, "Amazing Grace." What do you think will happen? Of course, they'll all join in. Why? Because practically every Christian knows at least a little of that song.
So when Peter began to pray from Psalm 146, then Psalm 2, in front of the thousands to whom he and John were giving their report, they all "lifted their voices together" and joined the prayer. How could they do that? Because they had been raised praying the psalms - just as Celtic Christians learned to pray them.
Praying the psalms gives us a rich vocabulary, a wide range of subjects, and a degree of personal involvement in prayer that we can't get on our own. Moreover, letting the psalms be your guide in prayer - all of them, spread out over time - can bring more consistency and reality to your prayers. Christians in every generation have understood that the psalms are God's prayerbook for the Church. In our day we have set these prayers, hymns, and testimonies aside, preferring our prayer lists or, more likely, not to pray at all.
The Christian life requires the discipline of prayer. God has helped us toward attaining this goal by giving us His Psalms for our prayers. Why not take up a few of the ones that are more familiar to you, and begin letting them guide your prayers for a few weeks? Then add to them until, eventually, you're able to pray your way through the whole psalter. You'll find what Christians in every generation have found - here's a discipline of prayer that really gets through to the King of the Stars, and can change your life as a result.
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