Praying the Psalms

“I” have so many questions about prayer! “I” am prepared to scour the earth in search of a teacher and a school of prayer, but sensing beforehand it would surely be fruitless . . .

Who will teach us to pray? To this question the Bible proposes an answer that is amazing, unprecedented and wonderful:

The one who will teach us to pray is none other than God himself . . .

How does God go about teaching us to pray? What is his method; how does he teach? It’s not by coming to conduct a course on prayer, though he might and we would be happy about it; no, he does much better; he demonstrates his own prayer, he gives it to us; not just one prayer, but a hundred and fifty! What he gives us is the Book of Psalms, and the Book of Psalms is in fact 150 prayers of God, offered to us . . . In the kingdom of prayer, there are 150 entranceways; we may go in by any one of them, and each time we will discover God in a different aspect . . . Were you looking for the words to pray? They are here! All the words for prayer are in this Book of Psalms, words of trust, of thanksgiving, of repentance, of praise, of pain, of compassion, of intercession, every facet of prayer, both private and communal . . .

Such is the Book of Psalms . . . a studio of prayer where God stands to behold his work, a school of prayer with 150 entrances . . . What place has our poor prayer beside these 150 treasures? . . . It is this, our personal prayer, before which God guards the deepest silence, to which he listens with infinite attention. Our personal prayer is Psalm 151! In this prayer, God contemplates the splendor which is ours; in it he recognizes the fruit of his grace.

Daniel opens this book with a consideration of prayer in general, of prayer as the highest activity of which we are capable, as our splendour, but also as attended by difficulties. We therefore need help, and here we turn to the Psalms as God given prayer, the Father teaching us to pray (ch 2). We also know that Jesus prayed the Psalms, and it is as we understand the psalms on the lips of Jesus, not just those he actually quoted, that we enter fully into their meaning. In the fourth chapter, we look for and find the Holy Spirit in the Psalms, before a brief final chapter on what Daniel calls Psalm 151, our personal prayer which emerges out of the silence of meditation.

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