What a treasure house the Psalms are! The longest book in the Bible is filled with prayers, songs, and teaching that direct us to God. Outside the Gospels, is there any place in the Bible where we can get closer to God?
Look what we can do with these prayers:
- Pray the psalms,
- Sing or chant them,
- Meditate on them,
- Memorize the words,
- Visualize the images,
- Write them out by hand
Use the Psalms as a launchpad to bring you closer to God’s heart. On this page I’m sharing with you selected pages and days from my own prayer journal so you can see how I use the Psalms to pray and draw close to God in different circumstances.
My suggestion is to start praying the psalms and let them teach you how to grow closer to God over time. (December 17, 2014)
I’m feeling a sadness and what some might call blue or depression this afternoon. I feel the need for something real and substantial. I turn to the Psalms. I need to pray one of these…again.
That is what my heart needs. A way to bring the whole experience I have, the “hole” experience in me now, before God. Thank You God for the Psalms (December 19, 2014)
1) Yahweh, You have searched me and known.
2) You know my sitting down and rising. You know my thoughts even from afar.
3) My wandering and lying down You measure, and you know all my ways intimately,
4) For there is not a word on my tongue that You, Yahweh, don’t know completely. (Psalm 139:1-4)
Nothing is hidden from God, no secrets are kept from Him. I am known inside and out.
And the amazing truth is that with such intimate knowledge of me, God does not want to discard or destroy me. He has plans for me! He wants to use me. In fact, His designs and intentions for me are far beyond what I can count or imagine. (January 9, 2015)
In the midst of praying forcefully against fierce enemies and those committed to do evil, this line and truth emerged:
“Yahweh, You are my God. You hear the sound of my pleading, my voice asking for Your grace, Your favor!” (Psalm 140:6)
I pray it, and I use it to meet with God once again.
I love this about praying God’s word and using the Psalms to pray.
I’m using God’s very words, inspired originally by His Spirit and now once again made alive by His Spirit in me so they become more than words, they let my spirit connect with God.
Here’s the next line: “Yahweh, my mighty Lord of salvation. You have protected my head in the day of battle.” Psalm 140:7
So, I pray this again. God, You hear my pleading, asking for Your grace and favor. Lord, You protect my head and mind in the day of battle. Amen! (January 12, 2015)
1 Yahweh, I call to You, hasten to me! Listen with favor to my voice calling You
2 I set forth my prayer as incense before You, the lifting of my hands like the evening sacrifice.
3 Set a guard over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips.
Bless the name of the Lord today. Bless His name! (January 22, 2015)
I started working on this the last part of 2014 and it continues to today.
Praying through the Psalms is a big project. The biggest section of it all is Psalm 119. All 176 verses of it. It is longer than many entire books of the Bible! That’s what I am working on now: Psalm 119. It is a big task. I will surely emerge a different person out the other side. And that is the whole point of praying God’s word.
When we pray God’s Word, we will be changed.
Prepare for a deep dive into God’s Word with this one…God’s Word My Delight (January 19, 2015)
“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart–
they do no wrong but follow his ways.
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
I see you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:1-3, 9-11, NIV)
This morning (Feb 15, 2015) I worked with my 10 year old son on reading and then memorizing a few verses from Psalm 119.
I had him turn to the psalm and then read the first three verses of stanza 1 (1-3) and the first three verses of stanza 2 (9-11). Next he wrote out these verses in his journal. Next, I asked him to memorize verses 1-2 and 9-11. He did all of this in about 30 minutes. While he did it, I also wrote out the six verses in my own journal.
You can do the same thing. Read the verses. Write them out. Memorize them and meditate on their meaning applied to your own life. Pray them back to God.
“I delight myself in Your statutes, do not let me forget Your word.” Psalm 119:16
This is the first mention of “delight” in Psalm 119, but it isn’t the only place we meet it (it’s used at least 8 times).
God’s word grounds us, it gives greater substance to our devotion. Our worship is not at the whim of momentary emotions. The word guides us and serves a very positive purpose.
As we delight in God’s word, of course the meaning is really: “I delight in You, God. Do not let me forget You.”
That kind of devotion to God is the whole purpose of Psalm 119. By helping us to look into His statutes and ponder His word, we are led deeper into our devotion to God.
Delight yourself in God and His word today. Turn that into a prayer. Or let your prayer turn into a time of just finding delight in God today. God’s word, my delight. (Feb 4, 2015)
“Deal generously (bountifully) with your servant, I live and keep Your word.” Psalm 119:17
The third stanza of Psalm 119 (Gimel) starts with this verse. It is a prayer for generous treatment by God.
I live by You and Your grace, God. I live by Your choice to deal bountifully, generously with me. Thank You!
You can make it your prayer too. God has more than enough to go around. You can’t exhaust His grace or what He wants to provide for you. (Feb 3, 2015)
“Open my eyes and let me see wonders from your teaching.” Psalm 119:18
I want to see God’s wonders, marvelous things that He has done, is doing, will do.
His teaching, His torah (law, teaching), is full of them. So this is my prayer today: God, show me wonders from your teaching! (Feb 1, 2015)
“I will run in the way of your commands for You have set my heart free!” Psalm 119:24
Can you imagine it? Even if you don’t care for running as a recreational pursuit, it’s not hard to catch the spirit of this verse.
Psalm 1 says the righteous person walks in God’s ways. Psalm 119:24 takes us further and urges us to run in God’s ways for the simple reason that He has set our hearts free.
Wow. Make that your prayer today! (March 4, 2015)
“My feet have avoided every evil path so that I can keep Your word.” Psalm 119:101
I pray this prayer, and the truth is something else because my feet have not avoided every evil path and I have not always kept God’s word. But in praying this line, I find myself wanting to be on the right path and lining up with the word of Truth.
Here’s what I’m learning: The lines of Psalm 119 are meant to intensify our longing for God (especially through His word). They do that by sharpening our awareness of the gap between what they express and where we are now.
They do something else as well. God’s words bring me in, help me get closer. They help me draw nearer to God’s presence. I’m getting closer as I am meditating on God’s word and applying it, internalizing it.
Getting closer to God means you’re on the right path. Draw closer to God and make sure your relationship with the Father is growing–that’s the sure path. (March 11, 2015)
Father (Psalm 103)
Both of my sons are teenagers now and I welcome their growth into manhood and also mourn a little the days of boyhood that they are leaving behind. I knew I could not always be the father they looked up to, who they mimicked and listened to with attention.
God, I need wisdom to be the father they need for the next part of their journey, as they grow bigger, older, more independent of me. Help me hold them lightly and not grasp after something that is gone. You know us in our inner parts, what we need, who we are. I entrust them to you again.
“Yahweh is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him, for he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:13-14 (June 7, 2017)
Blessed (Psalm 112)
“Blessed is the one who fears Yahweh,
he greatly delights in his commandments!
Psalm 112:1 (Oct 23, 2018)
In this new year, in this season of new beginnings, pray this psalm with me.
To you, Yahweh, I lift up my soul
My God, in you I trust
Make known your ways to me Yahweh
Teach me your paths
Guide me in your truth and teach me
for your are my God, my deliverance
I will hope in you all day long
Remember your mercies Yahweh
for they reach far back into the past
But do not remember the sins and transgressions of my youth
Instead remember me according to your committed, covenant love
because of your goodness Yahweh
Sing a New Song to the Lord (Psalm 103)
Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, o my soul, and do not forget all his benefits–
who forgives your transgressions, who heals all your diseases
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with faithful love and mercy
who satisfies you with good things as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5 (Apr 2, 2019)
Prayer from Deep Desolation (Psalm 31)
Sometimes we are full of emotion: joy, depression, rage, fear, and instead of avoiding God, prayer is the perfect outlet for what is welling up and overflowing. We see this in Psalm 31 and it contains verses that Jesus used in his moment of abandonment and desolation.
In you, O Yahweh I have taken refuge.Ps 31:1,5,13b,15 (May 9, 2019)
Into your hands I commit my spirit,
redeem me O Yahweh, the God of truth.
There is terror on every side
My times are in your hands, deliver me from my enemies and from those pursuing me.
“How joyful (blessed) is the one whose sin is forgiven and put out of sight.
Joyful (blessed) is the one whose sin is wiped off the record and who lives in honesty.” Psalm 32:1-2 (July 23, 2019)
“Deliver me…O my God; protect me…
I will sing of your might, I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been a fortress for me and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.
Psalm 59:1,16-17 (Aug 5, 2019)
“ I cried to Yahweh in my distress and He answered me.
Deliver me, Yahweh, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
What will be given to you, deceitful tongue, and what will be added to you?
The warrior’s sharp arrows and burning coals of the broom tree!
Woe is me, that I am camped in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
My soul has stayed too long with the one who hates peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.”
Psalm 120 (Jan 1, 2020)
Life is a struggle sometimes. Prayer can be a struggle. It doesn’t have to be. When prayer seems hard turn to the Psalms. Through centuries and millenia God’s people have used the Psalms to express their cries to him.
1 Yahweh hear my prayer. Give ear to my requests. In your faithfulness and your righteousness answer me!
2 Do not enter into judgment of your servant, for no one living can be upright before you.
3 For the enemy pursues me and crushes me to the ground. He makes me dwell in darkness like those who are long dead.
4 So my spirit is overwhelmed inside me and my heart is desolate within.
5 I remember the days of old. I meditate on all you’ve done. I mull over the works of your hand.
6 I stretch forth my hands to you, my soul is like a thirsty land. Selah.
7 Hear me quickly Yahweh—my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Make me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust, help me know the way to walk in, for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Deliver me from my enemies, Yahweh, I flee to you.
10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
11 On account of your name, Yahweh, revive me; in your righteousness bring me out of trouble.
12 In your covenant love cut off my enemies and destroy all those hostile opponents of my soul, for I am your servant.
Psalm 143 (Jan 9, 2020)
I was reading and praying Psalm 145 again this week and got a reminder about this powerful word. Tehillah is not the most common word for praise in Hebrew or in the Bible. But praise is one of the central things God wants us to learn and practice, so it should be a common activity for us.
If only it were so. Praise in the Bible’s sense is something that we don’t do often enough. It’s more than “thanks”. It’s putting God first, front and center. He is the focus, the one who takes action. And when he acts, he is always righteous, always loving, always wiser than our limited understanding.
The language of praise is extravagant: praise him, exalt him, bless him–at least four different Hebrew words for praise are used in this psalm. It is also emotional. Most English translations tone it down a little, but in the original language the volume is both loud (ringing cry, shout, scream, cry out) and soft (meditate), but there is no doubt that the worshipper is fully engaged in all expressions of praise.
Tehillah is not the most common word for psalms of praise in the book of Psalms. Mizmor is much more common. In fact, only Psalm 145 has Tehillah as its title (“Praise”). It’s also repeated in the last concluding verse. So it is fitting that Tehillim, the plural form of the word, is used in Hebrew for the title of the entire book of Psalms. Tehillah means praise!
Psalm 145 is also an acrostic psalm, which means each line of poetry begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. From a to z (or aleph to tav) we are to praise God. To give a clue to which word in English is a translation of the lead word in this acrostic, I’ve underlined that word in my translation below. I’ve also given an indication of some key Hebrew words for those who want to go deeper. Notice how certain words are tagged or repeated in the next verse or two verses later. I hope this blesses you to pray Tehillah to God.
A prayer of praise (tehillah) of David
1 I exalt (rum) you my God the king and I will bless (barak)/praise your name forever and always.
2 Every day I will bless (barak) you and praise (hallal) your name forever and always.
3 Great is Yahweh and praised (hallal) beyond limits, his greatness is beyond searching out.
4 One generation praises (shabach) your acts to another generation, and they will declare (hagid) your mighty deeds!
5 Awesome/majestic is the glory of your splendor and what you speak (davar), I will meditate (asiach) on your wonders.
6 They will tell of the power of your fearsome acts, and I will declare your greatness.
7 They will pour forth a memorial to your great goodness and give a ringing cry to your righteousness.
8 Yahweh is gracious and shows compassion, (he is) longsuffering and shows steadfast love.
9 Yahweh is good to all and he shows compassion to all he has made.
10 All your works shall praise you Yahweh, and your faithful (ones) will bless you.
11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom/royal power and talk of your might/power,
12 To make known to the sons of man his mighty acts, the might and glory of your kingdom/royal power.
13 Your kingdom is a kingdom lasting for all time, and your reign/royal rule endures for all generations.
14 Yahweh supports/upholds all who fall, and raises up all that are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all wait on/hope in you, and you give them their food at the right time.
16 Open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 Yahweh is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all his works/what he does.
18 Yahweh is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him sincerely/in truth.
19 The desire/longing of (those who) fear him he fulfills, and he will hear their cry/scream for help and save them.
20 Yahweh watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will wipe out/destroy.
21 The song praising (tehillah) Yahweh my mouth will speak, and all creatures (flesh) will bless (barak)/praise his holy name forever and ever.
(February 26, 2020)
The cry to God of “How long?” comes out of suffering and longing. How long? Surely not much longer. God, you remember me. You’re not truly absent. You’re bigger than my small thoughts. You can snap your fingers and defeat my enemies. So why do you make me wait? Why do I have to wrestle with these feelings, thoughts, taunts?
1) How long* Yahweh will You forget me—forever? How long will You conceal Your face from me? 2) How long must I hold advice within and not act, experience grief in my heart by day? How long will my enemy stay on top of me?
3) Consider this carefully and answer me Yahweh my God! Give me some light through all this darkness, or I will go to sleep in death 4) and the enemy will gloat, “I’ve won”, rejoicing that I have been tripped up and taken down.
5) Yet I trust in Your faithful love, my heart rejoices in Your deliverance. 6) I sing praise to You Yahweh for You have done good to me.
(May 7, 2020)