Why Read The Psalms?

Why Read The Psalms? April 17, 2012

The Book of Psalms is probably the most read book in the Bible. I know that I read it more then anything else. My prayer habits generally revolve around reading Psalms throughout the day as part of the “divine office” which makes up the backbone of my own prayer life, which I got from Catholic chruch.

  • If a Catholic prays the offices every day they will read thrugh all the psalms at least once a month.
  • The Lutheran Treasury of Daily prayer also sets up a similar system where you get through the psalms once a month.
  • The Anglicans also incorporate the psalms as central part of daily prayer in the Book of Common Prayer.
  • The Orthodox Church reads even more psalms in their prayer cycle.  If you read through all the offices in the Orthodox church you will read the entire psalter once a week.
  • Jews, likewise, are hugely impacted by the Psalms and they make up a central element of Jewish worship in both the Synagogue and in daily prayer. 
  • The Reform worship began as simply singing the Psalms and nothing else 
  • Evangelicals also love the Psalms. Many evangelical versions of the New Testament will include the Psalter as well, and most evangelicals know at least Psalm 23 by heart.

No matter what group of Christianity of Judaism one comes from, the Psalms will hold a great deal of prominence in the prayer and worship traditions of that tradition.

There is arguably No collection of poetry in the history of the world that has impacted as many people as deeply and profoundly as the Psalms.

WHY?

Here is my TOP 10 list of things to love about the Psalms:
  1. They speak to the entire spectrum of human experience. In them you can rejoice, fear, get angry, love, and experience just about every other emotion.
  2. They allow you to worship with your whole body. The psalmists clap, stomp, lift their hands, kneel, bow, shudder,
  3. They give room for any expressions you may want to give. You can laugh, shout, be silent, play an instrument, rage, weep, sigh, cry out, yell, bellow, roar, and just about anything else along with the psalms.
  4. They are universal. In the church it’s sometimes hard to find a way of praying with different. Christian groups in a way that is meaningful to all. The Psalms are a great place to start. Everyone uses them, and loves them.
  5. They join you in a timeless community of praise. When you pray the Psalms you are joining with thousands of years of prayer. These same prayers were prayed by the apostles themselves. Jesus even prayed the Psalms. In fact Jesus was reciting Psalm 22 on the cross. Why wouldn’t you want to read the prayers that Jesus prayed?
  6. They are beautiful. The Psalms have brought me to tears more then once with their beauty. They speak to my soul more then to my mind. The tension that they weave speaks to my very heart.
  7. They challenge you. There are some places in the psalms that are hard to deal with. Reading through the Psalms is a good way to force yourself to come face to face with many uncomfortable things about the Bible, God, and Human nature itself. Reading the Psalms is a good way to force yourself into an existential crisis.
  8. They can give you words for others. When I minister to the suffering and the dying, I often have nothing to say. I don’t have an answer for their sorrow, but I do have the words of the Psalms. There are few things that I have seen that have the power to give people peace in the midst of trial as having a dearly loved Psalm read. There are no words I could offer that come close.
  9. They will carry you. In my own life sometimes it’s hard to pray. The Psalms give me words and prayers when I can’t muster the words myself. The Psalms have kept my relationship with God afloat at many times when nothing else could.
  10. They create sacred mental space. I have memorized a fair number of Psalms in their entirety. This is one of the greatest treasures I have. IN my mind there are deeply cut paths of memory that I can sit in any time I want. When I find myself in a place of confusion I sit in a Psalm I have memorized. In a place of beauty, I enter a Psalm. When I need to confess, I kneel on top of a Psalm. The Psalms give me sacred space anywhere I am.

Here are a few of my favorite psalms:

  • Psalms 51: This Psalm changed my life. I read it over 10 years ago in a time of sorrow andGod met me in it, and has carried me ever since.
  • Psalm 23: This Psalm has comforted me my entire life. It might seem cliche, but I love it deerly.
  • Psalm 19: This Psalm has been a deer companion to me for many years and is responsible for most of my theology surrounding creation.
  • Psalm 95: I read this Psalm almost every morning. It is a close friend.
  • Psalm 22: This Psalm reminds me that Jesus was willing to enter into the utter depths of human brokenness, and therefore I have hope that I can be healed of my deepest brokenness. 

I could go on and on and on.

What Psalms are your favorite?

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