Daily Meditations

Praying the Psalms

By Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis, June 1, 2018

There is a reason why I end many of these reflections quoting the Psalms.  This is because the Psalms read as prayers, many of which are appropriate to use as our personal prayers.  One piece of advice I have given many times is for people to read through the book of Psalms (read one a day – it will take you five months) and then in a notebook, write down the emotion that each Psalm evokes in you.  It could be that certain Psalms don’t evoke any emotion in you.  I can’t say I “pray” Psalm 108, a prayer for vindication and vengeance: “Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser bring him to trial. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few”(Psalm 108: 6-8) and so on.

However, many more of them certainly do evoke an emotion that I am feeling, in words more beautiful than I can express.  Here are some of the Psalms on my list:

When I feel lost, I pray Psalm 143: Let me hear in the morning of Thy steadfast love, for in Thee I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to Thee I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8) 

When I have done something wrong, I pray Psalm 51: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.  (Psalm 51: 10-12)

When I need some comfort, I pray Psalm 23: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

When I want to glorify God and can’t think of the right words to say, I pray Psalm 104: O Lord, how magnificent are Thy works!  In wisdom Thou hast made them all. (Psalm 104: 24)

You get the idea.  I have read/prayed the book of Psalms many times.  I know what each Psalm does for me.  I know what my go-to Psalms are.  Spend some time in this wonderful book of the Bible and you’ll find some great go-to prayers to match your emotions or challenges you face.  We will discuss the benefits of praying from a book versus from the heart in the next reflection.  However, the Psalms provide an excellent source of already prepared material that captures in poetry words that are greater than our minds can conceive in many ways.  I can’t think of better words to say when I want a new start or when I’m confused or lost, or need comfort, or just want to give God some praise.

The Psalms provide a complete “spiritual workout.”  All of the emotions are there-sorrow, joy, prayers for enemies.  So, read the Psalms and make a list of what each Psalm does for you, and then incorporate the Psalms into your personal prayer life.

Praise the Lord!  Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His exceeding greatness!  Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp!  Praise Him with timbrel and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe!  Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals!  Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!  Psalm 150

Read the Psalms.  Study the Psalms.  Pray the Psalms.

+Fr. Stavros

~Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Tampa, FL, http://greekorthodoxchurchtampa.com/.