Praying the Psalms

Prayer is hard work. 

 

It is unnatural for most. Finding time to pray proves illusive, and even if we do hollow out space in the midst of our busy days, we then don’t know what to pray.

 

God’s people have always had a collection of pre-written prayers that help us to connect with God and his people. These common prayers became common songs, which were compiled into a book we now know as Psalms.

 

The Psalms are the original book of common prayer. They articulate every conceivable emotion and circumstance and offer them honestly to God. they include praise, and petition, weeping and rejoicing, prophecy and history, poetry and science. no matter what you currently face or are feeling, there is a Psalm for that.

 

So if you struggle to find intimacy with the Almighty, use this guide to direct your prayer-life through praying the psalms.

Psalm 21

Read Psalm 21 (text below), and then work through this guide to structure your prayer.

Think: Where in your life does God feel absent, or silent, or as if he has forsaken you? (verses 1-2)

Pray: Bring these things to God in prayer.

Remember: God has worked in history to save His people when they cried out to Him. (verses 3-5)

 

 

Think: What parts of your life feel beyond hope? What do you see in the world that seems hopeless, and beyond any fixing? (verses 6-8)

Pray: Bring these things to God in prayer.

Remember: Every moment of your life is a witness to God actively keeping you, especially when we are vulnerable and defenceless.(Verses 9-10)

 

 

Think: Where does God seem far off in your life or in the world? (verses 11-19)

Pray: Bring these things to God in prayer.

 

Remember: Jesus came and has already rescued us from our biggest problem. (Verses 19-31)

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, 

    from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

 

3 Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

 

6 But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

 

9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother's breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother's womb you have been my God.


11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

 

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued[c] me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Psalm 19

Read Psalm 19 (text below), and then work through this guide to structure your prayer.

Go: Go out into Creation. It could be the beach, the forest, your garden, anywhere you can be alone and observe the world.

Contemplate: Reflect on how what you are seeing in Creation reflects the Creator. (Verses 1-6)

Pray: Thank God for Creation and how it reveals Him to us.

 

 

Listen: Choose a portion of God's Word. It could be your daily reading, a psalm, your favourite story, anything. (verses 7-12a are a good choice!)

Look: As you read (out loud is best), be open to a word, or phrase, or verse gripping you or standing out to you as you read. (If you don't get one, re-read your text slower, more contemplatively)

 

Pray: Repeat your Word / Phrase / Verse over and over, as a prayer. Contemplate how God may be using these words to speak to you today.

 

Read verses 12b-14.

Pray: Pray these verses for yourself, asking God to do in you what verses 12b-14 ask.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,

    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2 Day to day pours out speech,

    and night to night reveals knowledge.

3 There is no speech, nor are there words,

    whose voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,

    and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,

5  which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,

    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

    and its circuit to the end of them,

    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,[c]

    reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure,

    making wise the simple;

8 the precepts of the Lord are right,

    rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure,

    enlightening the eyes;

9 the fear of the Lord is clean,

    enduring forever;

the rules[d] of the Lord are true,

    and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold,

    even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey

    and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;

    in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?

    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;

    let them not have dominion over me!

Then I shall be blameless,

    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

    be acceptable in your sight,

    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 107

Read Psalm 107 (text below), and then work through this guide to structure your prayer.

Can you think of any refugees – in Scripture or today – who have been delivered by God? (vv. 4-9)

  1. Cry out to the Lord: In what ways do you feel lost, wandering, hungry and thirsty. What is currently making your soul faint? (vv. 4-5)

    1. Confess these things and cry out to God in prayer.

  2. Thank the Lord for his steadfast love: In what ways has God satisfied your longing soul, and filled you with good things? (v. 9)

    1. Praise God for His deliverance and Love towards you.

Can you think of any criminals– in Scripture or in history – who have been delivered by God?

  1. Cry out to the Lord: In what ways are you currently in darkness, in affliction and feel trapped or imprisoned? In what ways have you rebelled against the words of God?

    1. Confess these things and cry out to God in prayer.

  2. Thank the Lord for his steadfast love: In what ways has God brought you out of darkness, and set you free?

    1. Praise God for His deliverance and Love towards you.

 

Can you think of sinful fools – in Scripture or today – who have been saved by God?

  1. Cry out to the Lord: How have you lived a life walking away from God and His blessing? How have you suffered because of these bad decisions? (v. 17)

    1. Confess these things and cry out to God in prayer.

  2. Thank the Lord for His Steadfast Love: In what ways has God sent out His Word and brought healing to you? How is He delivering you from destruction?

    1. Praise God for His deliverance and Love towards you.

Can you think of victims of disaster – in Scripture or today – who have been saved by God?

  1. Cry out to the Lord: Where is your life do you sense storms are breaking against you? Where in your life is your courage melting away and you are at your wits’ end?

    1. Confess these things and cry out to God in prayer

  2. Thank the Lord for His steadfast love: What past storms has God delivered you from? How has God led you to safety?

    1. Praise God for His deliverance and Love towards you.

 

Thank God for His steadfast love, recounting all the ways this Love has been revealed to you.

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
    prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11 because they rebelled against God’s commands
    and despised the plans of the Most High.
12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;
    they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
    and broke away their chains.
15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
16 for he breaks down gates of bronze
    and cuts through bars of iron.

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18 They loathed all food
    and drew near the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them;
    he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
    and tell of his works with songs of joy.

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
    and praise him in the council of the elders.

33 He turned rivers into a desert,
    flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into a salt waste,
    because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35 He turned the desert into pools of water
    and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36 there he brought the hungry to live,
    and they founded a city where they could settle.
37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards
    that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
    and he did not let their herds diminish.

39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
    by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
    made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
    and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
    but all the wicked shut their mouths.

43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
    and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

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