How to pray the Psalms?


#1

Dear brethen,

I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours (using an amazing app, Universalis, in case you are interested). As you might be aware, these are heavily reliant on Psalms. Yet, I find hard to pray with Psalms, because they belong to a very different context than to ours (at least today). Psalms many times use a language of war against other nations, or defense or vulnerability against oppressors, of asking God to avenge Israel, or remembering the great miracles done by God to Israel since they were captive in Egypt.

Any advice on this? Perhaps a suggested reading, online, or a book?

God bless you.


#2

Just yesterday I read about this very issue of difficulty with certain Psalms in the book I’m reading, “Study Guide for the Rule of St. Benedict,” by Maria-Thomas Beil, O.S.B.:

“Others take issue with the language of war and revenge. We have to understand these themes historically, considering that Israel had always been a nation involved in battle and war. In their view, war was justified, if God helped them; if not, it was because of their infidelity that God abandoned them to their enemies. This demanded conversion on their part. In recent times, we have become more concerned about peace, human rights, the value of life and freedom, and wish that such an attitude were prevailing universally! But have we as a nation and society really so far progressed beyond hatred, bias, discrimination, oppression, exploitation, injustice, etc.? …Some people insist on praying the whole Psalter, but want to “Christianize” it: instead of praying against human enemies, they suggest praying for the elimination of evil in all its forms: falsehood, injustice, exploitation, violence, etc… Here we can also include evil elements like natural disasters, hunger, poverty, illness and war. We can use the war images as metaphors for spiritual and ascetic warfare. After all, there is still a battle to be fought against evil and the world in our own hearts. St. Paul was one of the first to employ warlike terms in a spiritual sense. We can ask ourselves, which are my enemies, my shadows and temptations I have to fight with? What weapons do I use?”

Hope this helps some.


#3

I tend to think of those in other areas of the world while praying the Psalms, as well as people throughout time, if it’s a situation that I’m not experiencing personally. The Kingdom includes all nations and all times; past, present and future.

Anyway, that’s my take on it.

Edit: to clarify, I see the Church as Israel, as well as the Jewish peoples.


#4

One book that might help is, “Together in Prayer; Learning to Love the Liturgy of the Hours,” by Rev. Charles E. Miller, C.M.


#5

IN the psalms, I always read examples of war, revenge and curses in the context of spiritual warfare.

For example, where “the Lord hath hewn asunder the necks of sinners” those sinners aren’t human beings, but rather fallen angels.

If the Lord “shall crush the heads in the land of many” those aren’t people’s heads necessarily, they are the heads of the devils which have gone out all over the world to tempt and deceive.

And so on and so forth.


#6

If you look at a map you will see that the land between the Medeterranian sea and the Jordan river is more suited to agriculture and east of Jordan it is all desert land. Food and water have always been causes of conflict and very much so in that area during the centuries and millennia and still is.

Jerusalem means City of peace in Hebrew. There is peace if all agree to have it.


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