Voices Together

The poetry of the psalms makes our prayers delightful to express.

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, Who through the mouth of our father David, Your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?’”

   - Acts 4.24, 25

...and when the abbot began to recite a verse the choir responded humbly, and none of them dared to recite a single verse except the abbot himself...

   - Anonymous, Vita Brendani, Irish, perhaps 12th century (from an earlier ms.)

The first Christians prayed the psalms as readily as we pray the Lord’s Prayer when prompted in church.

This account from Acts 4 is extraordinary because, by this time, thousands of people from all walks of life comprised the Body of Christ in Jerusalem. On cue they could lift their voices together and pray a psalm – here, Psalms 146.6 and 2.1 – because it’s how they learned to pray. 

The same was true of the Celtic Christians. There are accounts of Celtic Christians praying psalms as early as ages 3 and 10. So it doesn’t surprise us when we see the monks in the monastery at Ailbe joining together when prompted by their abbot to recite a psalm in prayer.

We don’t know how to pray as we should; prayer is definitely a learned skill (Rom. 8.26). What better way to pray, our forebears from just about every age reckoned, than to take up the words God Himself provided and to emulate our first parents in the faith? The psalms provide a rich and varied libretto for prayer. They can guide us to heights of praise and thanksgiving we can never reach on our own. They meet us in our deepest, darkest affections and lead us through to renewed souls and lifted countenances. They show us how to pray for enemies, persecuted believers, and all our daily needs. The imagery of the psalms draws us into unseen realms and glory-filled places where we sense the presence of God more acutely. The poetry of the psalms makes our prayers delightful to express.

Our readings for today challenge us to take up this discipline so that we may unite our voices with those of saints from every age. Start with a psalm you can pray verbatim, such as Psalm 8. Offer it to the Lord as your prayer, every day for a week. Settle into it; make its words your own; and thus you can begin an experience of power in prayer that you can find nowhere else.

Psalm 95.1, 2, 6 (Tidings: “O Zion, Haste, Thy Mission High Fulfilling”)
Come, let us sing with joy to God, our Savior!
Let us with joy to Him, our Rock, bow down!
Come now before Him, grateful for His favor;
Let joyful psalms break forth from all around.
  Come, let us worship, kneel to our Lord;
  Worship our Maker: Father, Holy Spirit, Word!

Lord, may it be said of me, as it was said of Columcille, “He fixed the psalms.” Set them in my heart, Lord,so that I may pray them faithfully to You. Dallán Forgaill, “Amra Choluimb Chille”

T. M. Moore, Principal
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T. M.'s book, God's Prayer Program, contains everything you need to begin praying the psalms on a regular basis. John Nunnikhoven's two volumes of psalm-based prayers, Voices Together, can also help you get going in this discipline. Both are available at The Ailbe Bookstore.

[1] Plummer, p.57.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore