Almost seven or eight months ago I was heading home from the church and listening to a podcast, which I normally do. That day I was catching up on a few episodes from the Ask Pastor John podcast that I had been meaning to listen to for a while. The last one that I listened to as I was nearly to my house was How to Pray the Psalms. That particular episode featured Tim Keller discussing his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God when it had come out. In this episode, which I would highly recommend you check out at the link above, he talks about his practice of praying through the Psalms.
In the past, I have read through the Psalms many different times, sometimes along with reading through the book of Proverbs. However, I had never went through the Psalms with the intention of praying them. As I listened to this podcast episode, I resolved to give it a shot. My practice was as follows:
- Read through one Psalm per day (I split 119 into 3 days)
- When I sat down to read through it, I read through the Psalm slowly twice and then once out loud.
- I would then let the Psalm inform how I prayed and what I prayed about.
I wish that I could say that it only took me 150 days (or actually 152 since I split up Psalm 119), but it took a bit longer than that as I did miss a few days here and there. However, I recently finished and I am so thankful for the Psalms. The practice of restricting my prayer after reading only to what the Psalm contained was an especially helpful discipline to introduce. This was for me how I could make the Psalm my prayer. Of course, there are many places in the Psalms that are just honestly hard to pray, especially the imprecatory Psalms. In Bonhoeffer’s small book on the Psalms, The Prayerbook of the Bible (which is grouped with Life Together in the DBW series), he makes the point that we can only pray the Psalms in and through Jesus Christ. He goes on, “If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible, and especially the Psalms, we must not, therefore, first ask what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and only then can we pray them with Jesus Christ,” (Bonhoeffer, 157). It was Bonhoeffer’s words that helped me through some of the Psalms that I found most difficult to make my prayer as well as my overall view of the Psalter.
I would commend to you the discipline of praying through the Psalms. There are of course lots of ways to do so. Keller mentions a different way than what I explain above in the aforementioned podcast episode. However you may choose to do it, the time spent is not wasted.
I plan to revisit this discipline again soon and for that next round through I picked up Crossway’s The Psalms edition. Also, I plan to read Tim Keller’s book on prayer before I dive in again. I’m thankful for the many resources we have at our disposal to help point us to the depths of God’s Word.