The Value of Praying the Psalms

Lynn Anderson introduced me years ago to the value of praying through the Psalms.  In his recent book They Smell Like Sheep — Volume 2, he has one entire chapter on the value of praying the Psalms for Christians.  He gives some very practical suggestions for doing this.

This is such a good practice.  I have found praying the Psalms to be particularly helpful.  During one period of time, I read aloud five Psalms per day, praying through them as I read.  During another time period, I highlighted in yellow every characteristic or description of God that I found in the Psalms and prayed concerning these.  The ways to approach this are probably endless. 

Lynn Anderson lists the following as a few benefits of praying the Psalms:

  • Helps us speak the unspeakable — when we have no words for our feelings.
  • Helps us explore the uncomfortable — when we don’t want to go to those painful places we need to go.
  • Helps keep our prayer lists fresh — by constantly changing the subject.
  • Gives strength in weakness — by invoking God’s power.
  • Takes prayer beyond mere begging — into praise, adoration, and thankfulness.
  • Gets us out of ourselves — by putting us in touch with the needs and feelings of those around us.
  • Gives us a place to belong — in the long line with three thousand years of God’s people.
  • Helps us thoughtfully process our lives — by probing into our hearts and raising questions about our motives.
  • Gives us resources for ministry — when the Psalms become tools as we read them into the needs of others.
  • Frees us from the myth of certainty — as they lead us into mystery and paradox and make us comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Becomes "leaven" in the flock — as sheep begin to pray like their shepherds.
  • Draws us into encounter with God — again and again.

(Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep — Volume 2, pp. 45-46) 

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7 thoughts on “The Value of Praying the Psalms

  1. In my morning quiet time I am currently reading through the Psalms, but I don’t think that I have ever prayed them. Thanks for the suggestions.

  2. I’m working through Psalm 139 right now, for an upcoming talk. So, this is timely advice. Ordinarily, I do think to pray the Psalms, but maybe it would be interesting to pray Psalm 139 as part of what is said that day. Also, sounds like an interesting book! Have you used it to frame any of your speaking?

  3. Jim,    As always, your posts on this site enourage me so much, but this morning’s ‘praying the psalms’ hit an event dear to my heart.       Several years ago, in the mountains at the Red River Encampment I was so moved by the beauty of the mountains (having never been west of Uvalde, Texas at that point in my life) that I wanted to write a song to express what I was feeling.    About 2:30 in the a.m. I went down and stood beside the headwaters of the Red River (at that point it’s just a cold mountain stream) and began praying. 
           I asked the Lord to give me the words for the "next How Great Thou Art".    Not much of an order I thought, for our great God….and one of the ways that I’ve always found effective to ‘prime’ the poetic pump within me is pray the psalms. I praised Him for His love, for His works, for His power, for the beauty of His handiwork… and after 15 to 20 minutes of that, and no poem, no song, nothing came to my mind…in, more or less, disgust I said outloud "There are no words tonight!"      Jim, as I turned to head back to the motel, I heard a voice as clear as my own say, "That’s what I’ve given you….THERE ARE NO WORDS!"
           I literally ran back to the motel and woke my friend and lead singer in our quartet The Sounds of Glory, Dale Underwood, and said, "Dale, get up. we’ve got to write a song and call it There are No Words!"     He did, and we did, and if you’ll send me your mailing address I’ll send you a copy of a CD which was born out of ‘praying the Psalms.      By the way, our congregation here signed on to help support the young man working with Miladen in Croatia….In fact, we took on the bulk of his support…..It was a first for us…
    my love and appreciation,    Lanier Stevens

  4. L.L.I have not used the book in connection with my speaking–yet.  I want to finish the book and then reflect on some of this.  However, as I have been reading the book, I keep thinking, "This could be the seed thoughts for a nice series on…"I wish you well in your preparation for your talk on Psalm 139. 

  5. Lanier,So good to hear from you.I appreciate the story you shared.  Several years ago, I went hiking with friends on the Appalachian Trail.  Most of the week, we hiked through parts of Virginia.  At one point during the week, as our group was hiking the trail, I ended up walking alone for about forty five minutes.  I began to pray aloud.  High on the mountain with spectacular views at times, I continued praying aloud.  Years later, there is no better memory of that trip than that hour.  A very important hour spent with the God of creation as I spoke to him about my life.