Friday, March 22, 2013

Learn to Pray the Psalms

This Sunday at DPC we'll be continuing our occasional series through the Psalter, looking at Psalm 3... which I have helpfully printed for you above.

I wanted to make a case (again) for learning to pray the Psalms in the sermon itself, but I don't think there'll be time.  So, let me say it here.

Learn to pray the Psalms.


A few weeks ago a lady sat in my study weeping, telling me the awful, awful things that had happened to her in life.  Evil things, wretched things, grievous things.  Things for which we were not made.  And after all of that, she said, "Now, if all of that had happened to you, would you be cool with that?"

It seemed an odd question.  Of course I wouldn't be "cool" with that.  Why would she ask that?

Because she had been in a church full of that hateful, false teaching that is sometimes called "the prosperity gospel."  In her mind, for God to tolerate her or like her, she had to be happy clappy all the time, no matter what.

What balderdash.  There are 1,000 ways the Bible lays the axe to the root of that kind of thinking.

But one way is the very existence of what we call "The Psalms of Lament." Psalm 3 is such a Psalm.  In fact "lament" is the most common category or form of Psalm we have in the whole Psalter.  In fact, it's the largest by far.  It's basically a third of the Psalter.

Note - there are lots of different kinds of Psalms.  When you look at a Psalm, try to determine its function.  Does it declare the deeds and character of God?  Does it confess sin?  Does it present a plea for help?  What does it do?

The "lament" Psalms lay a troubling situation before the Lord.  And then they ask for help.

Nonsense like the "prosperity gospel" would have no purchase over us at all if we were accustomed to praying the Psalms.  Remember, the Psalter is your God-given prayer and worship and hymn book.  And if you use it to pray and worship and sing, you will find it forming (not just expressing) your beliefs.

(what follows are some thoughts gleaned & developed
from the introduction of the book "Heart Aflame")

A wonderful surprise awaits the person who learns how to pray the Psalms.  But you do have to "learn" it.  It may not always come easy.  It's something to grow into, as all real things are.

When it gets difficult, you have a choice.  You can give up.  Or you can stay at it until it becomes clearer and clearer.  And if the Psalms become clearer and clearer to you---it's amazing what else will become clearer.  Throughout your whole life.  This is a gift that keeps on giving.

Sinclair Ferguson has called the Psalms "a mineral rich quarry of theology."  And as you become more and more familiar with them, you will find your own experience mirrored in them all over the place.  They are a sure and wise guide to all prayer.  You will come to love the Psalms.  Dearly.  Perhaps it will become your favorite, most "useful" book in the Bible.

John Calvin said the Psalms are "an anatomy of all the parts of the soul."  What did he mean by that?  He meant that every experience, every emotion, all the heights and depths, all the joys and sorrows, all the mysteries of human life are found in the Psalms.

Calvin:  "There is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror."  Then he mentions several:  "griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated."

What tremendous, rich spiritual treasures are found in the Psalms.  Read them daily!  They illuminate the depths of human life with God's own light.  Reading and praying them daily will not fail to bring you spiritual health and spiritual strength.

There was a time in the history of the church when the book of Psalms was the basic diet of all Christian worship and song and prayer.  It was like that for centuries.  And you know what?  That was a much healthier, stronger, richer time for the church.

Psalms were commonly sung at church and sung around the table at home as well.  The Psalter formed the people.  In the words of Psalm 119, they were hiding God's Word in their hearts, learning not to sin against him.  The Word was a lamp to their feet and a light to their path.

That kind of Scripture-knowledge is unusual for Christians today.  Do you think we're stronger & richer or weaker & poorer for it?

The answer is obvious.

Take up a Psalm.  Read it.  Pray it.  Sing it, if you can.  Believe it.  Live it.  Embrace it.  Make it your own.  Repeat and repeat until the truth of that Psalm has grasped your heart.  Let it dwell in you richly (Colossians 3).  

In our twitter world, we don't concentrate & meditate on things very well anymore.  We don't know how.  We can't handle it.

And it shows.

May God give us grace & leaders such that we might return more and more to the Psalter, that it may shape us the way God intended.  So that we might lean into the world in the right way.  So that we might take our place in the fellowship of God's people.  So that we might play our part in the unfolding story of redemption.

For we are the heirs of that story.  And also the stewards of that story.

We are the people of hope.  We are the people of the covenant.  We are the people of the Psalms.


  1. Excellent post! I love every word you shared! Challenging, comforting, stimulating, inspiring--you need to print this in a handout that everyone will read and not just us lurkers of your blog!!!

  2. I don't understand... are you saying that everyone doesn't read Ransom Road?... huh.