Some Notes on Praying the Psalms
Pastor Gregory P. Fryer
August 15, 2016
A human heart is like a ship on a wild sea, driven by the storm winds from the four corners of the world. Here it is stuck with fear and worry about impending disaster; there comes grief and sadness because of present evil. Here breathes a breeze of hope and of anticipated happiness; there blows security and joy in present blessings. These storm winds teach us to speak with earnestness, to open the heart and pour out what lies at the bottom of it….What is the greatest thing in the Psalter but this earnest speaking amid these storm winds of every kind? (Martin Luther, Preface to the Psalms, LW 35)
Luther is right here, I am fully persuaded. The Psalms teach us how to pray, how to earnestly speak “amid these storm winds of every kind.” Indeed, the ancient fathers believed that the Psalms were the very prayers of Jesus Christ himself, come to expression by his Spirit long before he became incarnate of Mary.
The Gospels tell us of the times when Jesus went to a place apart for prayer:
And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12, KJV)
The Psalms give us insight to the mind and heart of Christ. They give us a peek into the prayers of our Lord Jesus amid the storm winds of every kind.
I am grateful to Augsburg Fortress Press for permission to include the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) Psalms prayers for each of the Psalms. I have come to value those LBW Psalms prayers as lovely introductions to the Psalms. It is as if the authors of these prayers had meditated deeply on each Psalm and then devised a prayer to our heavenly Father as a pious response to the Psalm.
Here is how I use the Psalms in my personal devotions: I start off with a quiet prayer of my own asking for God’s blessing on the time of devotions now at hand. Then I pray the Psalm prayer. Then I read through the Psalm. Especially I seek the Psalm verses that seem important for our congregation and for the needs of our people. Then, I build my own prayer on those particular verses on my heart—I build a prayer for the people on my prayer list. It is a long list. This is what pastors do: in some manner, we pray for the people. I tend to pray for them via the Psalms.
I hope you will find these Psalms and Psalm prayers helpful for your own devotions. The Psalms help us to be conscious of God. Each day, the Psalms help us to be Godward—to be mindful of our Triune God as we set about life each day.
God bless you in your love and use of the Psalms.