1 - Preparing to Pray the Psalms
The New Testament encourages us to pray. Ephesians 5:18-20, 6:18, and 1 Timothy 2:1-2 exhort us to pray often and in many ways. The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord teach us to pray” Luke 11:1). God does not assume we know how to pray, so he teaches us. Above all he teaches us in the psalms.
The psalms are the “Prayer Book of the Church” (of the Jewish people as well). Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message, tells us that the psalms have always been the place where Christians have learned how to pray – until our modern times. The psalms are much less known to us. Today, our prayer experiences are lesser for it.
If you say to Jesus, “Teach me to pray” he will surely take you back to the psalms. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become.”
This week, we want you to do a deep dive into the psalms. You will read many of them and borrow their words to shape your own prayers. I want you to get into an ancient prayer rhythm.
Read and pray the psalms in the morning, at noon, and in the evening. Today you will read the first and last psalms and the most famous psalm. Read each psalm meditatively and prayerfully. For each psalm ask, “What is the one most significant thing Jesus is impressing on me?”
Morning: Psalm 1 Afternoon: Psalm 23 Evening: Psalm 150
2 - Psalms of Penitence
These are the psalms of confession. These are the psalms where we express our sorrow for our sin, our brokenness due to sin, and the consequences of our sin. We also express our repentance from that sin. We feel our guilt and shame. We have genuine sorrow about our sin. We feel bad for how we have hurt others. We miss God’s tender presence. We long for forgiveness and freedom and restoration.
Today you will read, reflect, and pray through two psalms each time. Do not move through these psalms too quickly. Linger on the words and phrases. Ask Jesus for the grace to know your sins and for the grace of contrition and repentance. As you pray them, receive the forgiveness of God your Savior.
Morning: Psalms 6 & 32 Afternoon: Psalms 38 & 51 Evening: Psalms 130 & 131
3 - Psalms of Praise
“The Psalms do not simply express emotions … they actually shape the emotions …” (C. John Collins).
Psalms of praise are among the most frequent and beautiful in the entire catalog of psalms. These psalms invite praise and challenge us to a life of praise.
God is God. He is the Awesome God. There is no one like God. The psalms of praise are doxology. Praise God from whom all blessings flow…
We praise God our Creator, our Sustainer, our Redeemer, our Mighty God, our Strong Fortress, our Deliverance, and much, much more.
The dominant emotional experiences are that of joy, delight, and gratitude. As you read these psalms, don’t hold back. Express your delight and joy with exuberance. May your gratitude gush forth with genuine gusto. Lift your hands in praise. Say, “Thank you, Lord” out loud. Say, “Praise God” loudly. If you are really feeling uninhibited, shout to the Lord, for he is good.
Morning: Psalms 95 & 96 Afternoon: Psalms 97 & 98 Evening: Psalms 100 & 107
Do you want more? Read Psalms 34, 47, & 66.
4 - Psalms of Passion (Longing)
The Hebrew people were a hot culture people and not a cold culture people. Hot cultures are emotionally and relationally expressive (think Latin America). Cold cultures are rather reserved emotionally (think Germany). The United States is a cool to warm culture. The Hebrews were HOT, and we see this powerful emotion in the deep desires and longings in many of the psalms. They pant, they hunger, they thirst, they seek, they pursue, they agonize, they are passionate about God, and they want to experience God. Really! Truly! Powerfully!
As you read the psalms for today, ask Jesus to stoke the fires of longing in your own soul. Do not read these in a monotone or flat manner. Read them out loud (if you are alone) and read them with energy and desire.
Morning: Psalms 13 & 27 Afternoon: Psalms 42 & 84 Evening: Psalms 63 & 143
Do you want more? Read Psalms 25 & 77.
5 - Psalms of Petition
While I have waited to introduce this theme to you, almost every psalm has petition in it. The psalmists ask God to act, to work, to move, to do what needs done. Sometimes the prayers are for the psalmist and other times for the people of Israel. Prayer asks God about the things that matter most.
And these prayers come from a place of pain, neediness, brokenness, emptiness, fear, anger, frustration, confusion, and the general messiness of life. These emotions can be a little intimidating, so we often suppress them, bury them, deny them, and even hide them from God. Not the psalmists. They let it out to God, and they encounter God from the place of these deep emotions. May you do the same.
Morning: Psalms 16 & 17 Afternoon: Psalms 55 & 56 Evening: Psalms 69 & 70
Do you want more? Read Psalms 22, 61, & 102.
6 - Psalms of Proclamation
These psalms are similar to psalms of praise, but they focus more on speaking forth to others the glories of God, how excellent is the name and the ways of our God, and what our God does. As such, they are still full of praise, but they have a teaching purpose. They are psalms of pedagogy as they proclaim the good news of an Almighty Creator and Protector. They are confident, stirring, empowering, encouraging, and testifying to the sovereignty and goodness of God.
Learn who your God is. Rejoice in what your God is doing. Trust in what God has in store for you. Worship your Lord in spirit and in truth.
Morning: Psalms 8 & 19 Afternoon: Psalms 46 & 47 Evening: Psalm 78 (a long psalm)
Do you want more? Read Psalms 29, 36, 40, 50, 90, & 145.
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