Mael Dithruib asked Mael Ruain if it was enough to recite fifty psalms, if it happened that one gave instruction together with them. Mail Ruain said that, in his opinion, what was there in the whole Psalter was not beyond anyone’s ability. “For that is the additional task of all of us. We have now a man for the sickle, and for the flail, and for the measuring-rod, and for the ditch: the three fifties [the 150 psalms] are the additional task of each of them...”
- Stories of the Ceili De, Irish, 8th century
Moreover King Hezekiah and the leaders commanded the Levites to sing praise to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed their heads and worshiped.
- 2 Chronicles 29.30
Let's face it, for most of us, our prayer life could use some, well, bolstering.
We are relieved when we read Paul saying we don’t know how to pray as we should (Rom. 8.26), but that must not be an excuse for slackness in prayer. The Spirit of God is ready to help us in prayer, but we need to be in prayer for Him to do His work.
Prayer is the most important spiritual discipline and the most characteristic feature of the Christian life. We must not be complacent about the state of our prayers, but always strive to improve them. Because in prayer we peer through the veil that separates this world from the next; we stand in the Presence of our God and Savior; and we behold the glory of God emanating from the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4.6). There we may pour out our soul to the Lord, knowing that He hears, will answer, and will show us great things and mysteries we have not known (Jer. 33.3).
Still, we don’t know how to pray as we should. We stutter, stumble, and stammer through well-worn lists, familiar formulas, and trite phrases, but our prayers just don’t seem to get very far. If words fail us in prayer, then we need some help.
And God has already come to our aid.
Praying the psalms is the quickest and surest way to a better prayer life. And as Mael Ruain insisted, “the whole Psalter [is] not beyond anyone’s ability.” In the psalms God gives us the words and opens the windows of prayer on just about anything you could imagine. All we need to do is take up these holy scripts and let them guide us before the throne of grace.
King Hezekiah understood the value of praying the psalms, especially when the people needed revival. The leaders of Ireland’s medieval monasteries understood the value of praying the psalms. They prayed the psalms, all 150 of them, and they taught the people in the communities surrounding their monasteries to pray them as well. Is it merely coincidental that these Celtic Christian communities fomented a revival that lasted for four centuries?
Is it possible that we could realize the same through our prayers?
Open the Psalter to a favorite psalm. Read it through, slowly meditate down into it, then pray the psalm back to God, but in your own words, listening as the Spirit leads. God breathed those words out to you, and now you breathe those words back to Him. See how He comes to meet you in such prayers, and to carry you into His very Presence with the assurance that, because these are His words, prepared for your use, your prayers have not fallen on deaf ears.
Get in the practice of learning to pray one or two new psalms every week, until you begin to feel comfortable in them all. Follow the daily schedule provided in John Nunnikhoven’s Voices Together devotional.
Praying the psalms is not too much for you; indeed, doing so can provide a continual boost and bolster for your prayer life.
Learn to pray the psalms, and you’ll never want for words with which to praise, thank, or supplicate our heavenly Father.
1. What is your favorite psalm? Try turning that psalm into a prayer, and offer it to the Lord.
2. Why is the book of psalms a good place to go for bolstering your prayer life?
Psalm 47.7-9 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
God is the King of all the earth, sing praise to Him with glorious psalms!
He rules the nations by His worth, and on His throne receives their alms.
Princes of people gather all to Abraham and to our God.
Exalt the Lord, and on Him call – the earth is His, so praise our God!
Help me, Lord, to take up a better practice of prayer, and to let Your Word guide me so that…
Praying the Psalms
Our book, God’s Prayer Program, can show you how to begin praying the psalms more consistently, so that your prayers become richer and more meaningful. You can order a free copy of God’s Prayer Program by clicking here.
Thanks so much to those of you who faithfully support the work of The Fellowship of Ailbe. God uses your gifts and prayers to reach thousands of people every day in over 140 countries. We praise the Lord for His having moved and enabled you to share with us in this ministry.
If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.