Praying With the Psalms: A Language for Our Encounter with God

The Book of Psalms found in the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, is a book not meant to be read, but rather prayed.

 Min read
September 12, 2023

The Book of Psalms found in the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, is a book not meant to be read, but rather prayed. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI called the Psalms: “the ‘prayerbook’ par excellence.”¹

​​The Psalter is a collection of 150 hymns originally used in Temple worship by the Jewish people. Over time they have become a vital part of Christian prayer and worship as well, being recited daily at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours.  

Tradition attributes 73 Psalms to David, twelve to Asaph, eleven to the sons of Korah, two to Solomon, one to Moses, and others to Heman and Ethan.

The Psalms express the wide range of human emotions: joy, sorrow, gratitude, desire for God, despair, hope. For this reason, it resonates with people across time and place. Again, Benedict XVI said that the Psalms are given to us “ that we might learn to address ourselves to God, to communicate with Him, to talk to Him about ourselves with His words, to find language for an encounter with Him.”

Christ Himself also prayed the Psalms; we see in the Gospels that the Psalms were 

constantly on his lips, reciting them in his prayer and teaching. 

If you wish to pray as Christ did you must pray with the Psalms. 

How do you pray the Psalms?

In the first centuries of the Church, the Psalms were the most common form of personal prayer and people often prayed all 150 psalms every week. (This was actually the basis for the 150 Hail Marys of the Rosary–until the recent addition of the Luminous Mysteries– which is why the Rosary has often been called the Little Psalter).

Farmers and workmen used to pray the psalms from memory while working out in the field or their shops, while women prayed them as they performed their domestic duties.

However, while the Church has maintained that priests and religious should pray with the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, it is not emphasized among the laity as it once was. 

So how can the faithful today use it to express our interior life? 

Pray the Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, is the daily prayer of the Church, imbuing your day with prayer. The USCCB writes that “The Hours are a meditative dialogue on the mystery of Christ, using scripture and prayer” and much of it is repeating the Psalms. 

This repetition allows us to take to heart the words, so that their language becomes part of our language of prayer. 

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are the most “important” of the hours so consider starting with one or both of these. You can find the full prayers for each day here or listen to them chanted here.

Lectio Divina 

Lectio Divina or “Divine Reading” is an ancient spiritual discipline involving a slow, thoughtful reading of the Scriptures. Read through the Psalm, meditate on its words and its meaning for your life. 

You can read through a new Psalm each day or find a Psalm that expresses whatever emotions you bring to prayer and meditate on it. 

Spontaneous Prayer

Make the Psalms a part of your life. 

Listen to them sung. Print out a few psalms and leave them around your home where you might see them as you go about your day. Text one to a friend or memorize one with your kids. 

You can even pray with them during your workout with the Pietra Fitness’ collection “Lord Make Haste to Help Me”  to help make the Psalms your words, your expression of love to God. Log in (or sign up) today to begin. 

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