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COVID-19: How to Pray a Psalm

04.28.20 | Worship | by Matt Sutton

COVID-19: How to Pray a Psalm

    Most of us would admit that our prayer life isn't as strong as we'd like it to be. I’ll admit that sometimes my prayers feel like I’m talking to God, but more often it seems like they don’t make it past the ceiling. Oftentimes I can’t find words to say at all.

    In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis describes the “troughs and peaks” of the Christian life. A trough is the bottom of two large waves – times when we can feel spiritually disconnected from God. The peaks of the Christian life are when believers feel the closest and most connected to God and can almost tangibly sense His presence. Lewis argues that the troughs are often where God works to make believers into the people He wants them to be. 

    Many of the Psalms are prayers written by people in the middle of these tough seasons. 

    A few years ago, I was talking to a mentor of mine, and I brought up the feelings of inconsistency I felt in my prayer life. His suggestion was to start praying through the Psalms. I had always heard that praying Scripture back to God was something to do, but I had never been taught how to do it. Thankfully, my mentor showed me how he did it, and I started doing the practice as well. Here are a few tips for you to try praying a Psalm:

    Familiarize

    The first thing I do is get very familiar with the passage. I read through it a few times in a few different translations. This allows me to catch the meaning of some words and phrases that seem strange to my modern ears. You can also listen to passages of Scripture on the Bible app. This helps me become more comfortable with the language and ideas in each passage.

    Memorize

    My next step is to try to memorize the Psalm. Admittedly, this is not a strength of mine, but I find that after reading it once or twice a day for a week or so it gets much easier! Once I have some verses in my mind and heart, they’re able to saturate my thoughts and change my attitude throughout the day. 

    Personalize

    When my prayer life needs a jump-start, I often turn to a Psalm and start reading each line out loud, pausing to add my own prayer. I usually go to Psalm 25. Here is an example (italics are my words): 

    Verse 1 - To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. - Father, help me be mindful of anything that I give myself to. Don’t let me appeal to anything else for truth.

    Verse 2 - O my God, in you I trust - And in no one or nothing else. Let me not be put to shame; Let not my enemies exult over me. - Father, please do not let temptations of greed, hate, envy, or idolatry win. You have already put those to shame on the cross and shown power by the resurrection of your son. 

    Verse 3 - Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame - Let this be true for me. Help me to remember that you have already won the war and since I am yours I am not subject to shame. They will be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. - And give me grace for them like you’ve given me. 

    Verse 4 - Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; For you I wait all the day long. - Nothing else can save me, only You. Show me how to be gentle and lowly in spirit like Your son so that I can obey and follow you. Teach me the way of Jesus. 

    Try it out for yourself! Hopefully this will help you find intimacy with God in the midst of the troughs and tough seasons, and learn to appreciate the time on the peak even more. 

    Here are some great Psalms I recommend praying through:

    • Psalm 1
    • Psalm 19
    • Psalm 23
    • Psalm 24
    • Psalm 25
    • Psalm 32
    • Psalm 34
    • Psalm 51
    • Psalm 63