I have been fascinated the way monks pray both Catholic and Orthodox, and they always seem to be praying the psalms in their cells etc…
How does one properly pray the psalms, as opposed to just reading them starting with the first and making your way in. Is there a proper form used? Does anyone incorporate a prayer using the psalter in day to day life?
Do you ever feel the same as what you see in any given Psalm? Those may be the ones to begin learning to pray.
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.” (39)
Read it thinking about your own feeling this way, then it is both your words and David’s words - pray to ‘I AM’ (the LORD) with David, suffer with him and petition God with him for both your sake and David’s “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.” (later in 39 - I grabbed that psalm at random; they all work this way)
Join David in God’s knowing of David praying, so God is knowing both you and David praying together as one. “Lord, you know eternally; you know David and you know your servant David praying to you. Do good to your servant David by knowing me also praying with him, I who am his descendent by faith in your only Son, whom you also know in goodness eternally.”
Stand or kneel by David and say the words with him, rather than reading the words 3000 years later. "When David was praying, ‘I AM’. " So you literally can be praying with David in the knowing of God.
I frequently pray parts of the Liturgy of the Hours (also called the Divine Office), which uses the Psalms as the main prayers.
This morning was Psalm 69:
“…More numerous than the hairs on my head are those who hate me without cause.
Those who attack me with lies are too much for my strength…
…It is for you that I suffer taunts, that shame covers my face…”
I always pray for Christians in other parts of the world who risk imprisonment or death for practicing their faith when I pray this Psalm. Let’s face it, the closest I come to suffering for my faith will be fasting next Wednesday. :o
The Psalms speak to the totality of our human condition, as well as teach us how to deepen our faith and have a right relationship with Our Lord. And since there are 150 of them, if there’s one you just can’t relate to at this point in your life, you’ll certainly be able to find one to which you can relate.
Some good replies. I’ll admit that when praying the Liturgy of the Hours I can fall into a bad habit of reciting the psalms more than praying them. For some reason a psalm that sang in my heart for weeks can turn to ashes on my tongue a month later. If you are not following a prescribed set, then learn to recognize when things have gotten stale and refocus through different psalms or by trying to understand the psalmists thoughts to draw you into the heart of the prayer.
One things that my spiritual director suggested was to read the psalm before praying it. The point is to identify what the psalm is about. Some psalms are prayers of adoration or petition, others are of contrition or thanksgiving. Once you know what the “tone” of the psalm is, then put yourself into the psalm as if they are your own words. It is not just a matter of imagination but also of making the feelings an upwelling of your own soul. For me this is often easier if I sing or chant the psalms, but that’s me and might not work for everyone. I also tend to pray them better if my physical aspect matches the tone; so kneeling with head down in contrition, but hands and face uplifted in adoration (in my mind closed vs open). I also do better praying in an area set aside for prayer. It sets my mind in the right place as “this is time for God alone”.
One final note is that each person will pray them differently; what helps one person may be a hinderance to another. Singing and posture are natural to me, but if they aren’t for you then they may distract you to the point that the mechanics overshadow the prayer. The best I can say is to try different things. You can look to saints to see how they did it, but only you can say if it’s the right way for you to pray.
A book that some of you may find interesting is “The Manhattan Psalter,” by Sister M. Juanita Colon, a Trappistine. Sister Juanita prayed and meditated on the psalms all her religious life. This is her rendering of them all, in her own words. It is her THIRD rendering, but the final one, as it was published after her death. Whenever I find myself getting too comfortable with the familiar words of the “official” translation, I turn to this unusual but beautiful book. amazon.com/Manhattan-Psalter-Lectio-Divina-Juanita/dp/0814627714/