Praying the Psalms

Like a deer years for running water


One of the classical definitions of prayer suggests that “prayer is lifting mind and heart to God”.

Our problem is that we don’t always do this when we pray. Rather than lifting up to God what is actually on our minds and in our hearts, we don’t always pinpoint exactly the real truth of our thoughts and feelings. Instead of sharing from the depths of our souls, we tell God what we think God wants to hear – not our vile thoughts, deep resentments, loathing for others, or our disappointment with Him.

“But expressing those feelings is the whole point. What makes the psalms great for prayer is that they do not hide the truth from God and they run the whole gamut of our actual feelings. They give honest voice to what is actually going on in our minds and hearts.

Sometimes we feel good and our spontaneous impulse is to speak words of praise and gratitude and the psalms give us that voice. They speak of God’s goodness in all – love, friends, faith, health, food, wine, enjoyment.

But we don’t always feel that way. Our lives have too their cold, lonely seasons when disappointment and bitterness spontaneously boil under the surface. Again the psalms give us honest voice and we can open up all those angry and vengeful feelings to God. Other times, we fill with the sense of our own inadequacy, with the fact that we cannot measure up to the trust and love that is given us.

The psalms again give us voice for this, asking God to have mercy, to soften our hearts, to wash us clean, and give us a new start.

And then there are times too when we feel bitterly disappointed with God Himself and need some way to express this. The psalms give us this voice (“Why are you so silent? Why are you so far from me?”) even as they make us aware that God is not afraid of our anger and bitterness, but, like a loving parent, only wants for us to come and talk about it.

The psalms are a privileged vehicle for prayer because they lift the full range of our thoughts and feelings to God.”  (Ron Rolheiser, OMI)

I love to SING the Psalms.  I searched through them for all the scriptures I could find relating to music and song and compiled them into a song called “I Will Sing” from my “That We May Be One” CD.  You can hear it here: track 4.

Keep praying.  Keep singing.