On Praying the Psalms

According to Gordon Wenham, the Psalms are designed to be prayed.  Wenham points out that Jesus and the apostles prayed the Psalms regularly, and then the Christ church for about eighteen centuries.  But what happened?  In the 18th century,

Men like Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Newton, and others in the evangelical revival wrote very good hymns that were easier to sing than the  psalms.  In their day of course people continued to pray and sing the psalms, but as time went on, the use of the Psalms began to die out.  So today many churches in Britain and American never use the Psalms at all, and some seminaries do not even make study of the Psalms part of their curriculum.”  (The Psalter Reclaimed, p. 40)

Back in California, a pastor friend of mine would meet with a group of his men from his church to pray the Psalms in the morning.  At the time, I thought how interesting!  But I’ve since began to pray the Psalms.  In a recent lecture, I even heard fellow Baptist Al Mohler saying that it’s a part of his regular devotional life.  Perhaps we may do well to heed the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as we seek to reclaim the Psalter: “The only way to understand the Psalms is on your knees, the whole congregation praying the words of the Psalms with all its strength.”

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5 Responses to On Praying the Psalms

  1. Simon says:

    TC, I wonder if praying is becoming another evangelical fad, like liturgical worship appears to have become. It’s worth pointing that the vast majority of the church, including the Anglicans, have been singing, chanting and praying the psalms for 2000 years ;)

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  2. Lon says:

    Would appreciate more on this. I try to pray thme, when I read them, but haven’t seen this modeled as part of private or group prayer. So I have a lot to learn.

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    • TC says:

      Lon, I hear you. In fact, from what little I know, you’re already praying the Psalms. According to Wenham, to pray the Psalms we only need to look to Psalm 1:2 and the word “meditate,” which is better translated “mumble, talk quietly.” It’s reading them out aloud, reciting them, meditating on them. I believe the Common English Bible brings out the sense quite well: “Instead of doing those things,
      these persons love the Lord’s Instruction,
      and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!”

      Here’s a helpful video I found, which sums up the matter quite well:

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  3. Simon says:

    Lon, the best and easiest way to pray them psalms in your personal devotion is through a prayer book.

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