Praying the Psalms instead of reading


I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours, but I find that when I’m reciting/chanting the psalms, it’s just that: reciting them. I’m not actively engaging in prayer and often find myself zoning out, because many of them don’t apply to my current situation. Does anyone have any advice as to how to pray the psalms instead of just reading them?


It is helpful to learn the context and background for the various psalms in the LOTH; at least, that was meaningful for me.


I find it helpful to include some silence after each psalm so I can think about what it said and my reaction to it. Sometimes a word or phrase will stand out, sometimes an idea will strike me. One thing to keep in mind is that even if a psalm doesn’t apply to your situation on a particular day, it certainly applies to someone else and you can include those people in your prayers.


I recommend the book “Everyday Catholics Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours”

I took pray the Divine Office and it helped me understand and appreciate why pray Psalms that don’t necessarily pertain to us at the moment.

The short of it is that it’s not a private devotion. It’s an actual liturgy of the Church. You exercise your (non-sacramental) priesthood of all believers when you pray it. We pray as a whole, so perhaps what you pray today may affect one other Christian who is also praying it.


Don’t just read them, chant them brother!

There are phone apps that have the divine office psalm chanting. Perhaps that may help?


You have to realize that the Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the Church, and so is also therefore the voice of Christ himself offering praises to his Father. This carries with it not only a special kind of power, but also a special kind of “responsibility” so to speak. That’s one reason it’s called the Office, because it is a function offered by the whole Church.

If you keep this in mind, and St. Paul’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”, then you will recognize that you are often not praying in your own voice. The problem is that you try to think only of how it applies to you. But within the Church, there are people who are sorrowing, and there are people who are rejoicing. And all the faithful are called to praise God no matter what one’s current affairs. So if you’re happy, praise God, and if you come across a psalm of lament, well, you can be sure there are lots of people undergoing those. So pray in their voice. Pray the Psalm as if you were praying on their behalf. And if you’re undergoing difficulties, and you come across a joyful psalm, then claim that Psalm as a promise, as Jesus did on the Cross. And use that Psalm to give thanks for those who may have been blessed but forgot to give praise to God, thereby making that Psalm an act of reparation as well.

there are many ways to understand this. But the Liturgy of the Hours is not primarily about “me”. It’s about the Church, and so one great benefit of the Hours is that it’s an invitation and opportunity to pray selflessly.


Zoning out is common. My tricks: I chant the LOTH in Latin, then read through the psalm silently in French. I also read the psalm title, and the little quote under it from the Bible or a Church Father, when I read it in French. I try to consider the context, and lately, trying to read the psalm from a christological perspective, whether prophecy, Jesus’s own suffering on the Cross, etc.

Since this reading is done in silence, my practice of the LOTH has lots if silence in it, between the psalms and after the readings. I do the intercessions in French though.

I have a harder time having it sink in when I simply read the LOTH in French, for instance when traveling. But even if it doesn’t sink in, by being the liturgy of the Church, it is not without value to add one’s voice to the chorus of the faithful praying the LOTH.

Porthos is bang on: “it’s not all about me”, we are praying for all the faithful whether they are rejoicing or sorrowful, no matter if we share their mood or not. It’s a very important aspect of the LOTH.


I would very much recommend a book written by two reasonably well known Catholics :slight_smile:

Morning and Evening Prayer: Meditations and Catechesis on Psalms and Canticles by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict (Catholic Truth Society, 2015)

JP-II started reflections on the Office, and Benedict continued it. They helped me to understand the original context of the psalms and canticles, and how we might relate to them today.


The Liturgy of the Hours makes it very easy to meditate on the psalm readings once you recognize one thing: there’s a short reading before the psalm- typically from the New Testament, sometimes from a saint. This is supposed to guide your reading- it’s not just a filler.

For example, the daytime prayer for today contains Psalm 119:65-72, and is prefaced by a verse from 1 John, Loving God means keeping his commandments (1 John 5:3). The first few verses of the psalm are, Lord, you have been good to your servant according to your word. Teach me discernment and knowledge for I trust in your commands. Before I was afflicted I strayed
but now I keep your word. You are good and your deeds are good; teach me your commandments.

See how the New Testament reading opens up the psalm to you? And likewise, the psalm opens up the NT reading. This is what you need to focus on.


In my experience, for me to best focus on the words I’m saying, I don’t say them. I sing them.

The Liturgy of the Hours is, quite obviously, liturgical worship. In many Catholic rites, liturgical worship is almost always chanted or sung. Sadly, in the Christian West, this practice is typically only done in monasteries today.

You can chant the psalms on a single note if you want, or you can make up your own melody. Or even better, you can follow something simple like the Mundelein Psalter.

Thousands and thousands of monastics all across the world chant the Liturgy of the Hours every hour, every day. Give it a shot!


I agree. Since I happen to know how to psalmody on the Latin tones, it’s what I do. I also have an excellent set of French tones that I sometimes use but I prefer the Latin. I use Les Heures Grégoriennes for the day hours and Liturgia Horarum for the Office of Readings which I chant recto-tono, as Vigils early in the AM.


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