“What do you do to go deeper with the Lord?” my friend asked as our conversation jumped from topic to topic after not seeing each other for months.
I paused and took a sip of my chai latte before answering her question. I had lots of ideas but thought, Going deeper could look different for her than it does for me. I didn’t want to hand her ideas I loved, but then when she tried them they flopped because of our differences in personality, interest, passion and even giftedness. However, I imagined this idea could resonate for a variety of people.
“Have you ever tried praying the Psalms?” I responded.
“I have definitely heard of praying Scripture, but not specifically Psalms.”
“You can use the book of Psalms as a prayer guidebook, having conversations with the Lord like the psalmists did, expressing anger, joy or even sadness. This is a way to be with Him in those times.
I shared how praying psalms may reveal what you’re comfortable talking to God about and what you’re not. It can be a journey that helps you be more honest with God.
What the Psalms reveal about God
When thinking about Psalms and psalmists, David may be the first name that comes to mind. He is the author of at least 73 of the psalms, including one of the most well-known, Psalm 23. However, David wasn’t the only psalmist. There are others such as Solomon, Asaph and the Sons of Korah.
Psalms were primarily used as songs, and at times they specified the instrumental arrangement. But they had different purposes, like passing along wisdom, worship and praise to God, songs while making a traditional pilgrimage to Jerusalem, psalms describing the kingship of God, and even those focused on lament.
Through the context of Psalm 23, author W. Phillip Keller talks about the God who wants us to join Him in going below the surface to the roots of what’s really going on inside our hearts.
“If we will allow it, if we will submit to it, God by His Word will search us,” Keller says in his book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.” “There will be no ‘pulling the wool over His eyes.’ He will get below the surface, behind the front of our old self-life and expose things that need to be made right…the Great Shepherd of our souls has our own best interests at heart where He so searches us. What a comfort this should be to the child of God who can trust in God’s care.”
As we trust in this God who cares about what’s going on beneath the surface in our lives, we may also discover more about Him, find that our relationship with Him deepens, and our hunger for talking with Him about everything grows.
In their book “Where Prayer Becomes Real,” Kyle Strobel and John Coe talk about how the Psalms teach us more about how honest we can be with God:
“We discover a lot about a person based on what they can hear. It turns out that God can hear wonderful things, delightful things, hard things, angry things, and frustrating things. God can even hear false accusations and false claims…the Psalms reveal that God wants to hear what his people feel, even when, maybe especially when, what we feel seems too difficult to share. This tells us much about who our God is.”
Using Psalms to be with God — whatever you’re feeling
It may not be enough to know cognitively that God can handle our honesty. Sometimes we need to try it out and see what happens next.
Below are five examples of how you can pray through specific psalms and be honest with the Lord in the process, no matter where you find yourself today. This is definitely not an exhaustive list of psalms or feelings. After a time of praying the Psalms you may even want to share your insights with someone you’re close to.
Many of the included questions in each section can be used for any of the psalms. Also, most psalms can’t be so easily categorized, as they may involve words of anger in the beginning and words of worship at the end. It can be fascinating to join the psalmist on the journey and see what the Holy Spirit reveals.
Psalms for when you’re angry
(Psalm 7, 35, 69, 109)
Anger can be a difficult feeling to express to God and talk to Him about, depending on how you’re wired. But being with God in anger can also be one of the most freeing experiences. When I bring my anger to God and pray the words of the psalmist, I don’t have to search for words to use or even question whether or not I should be praying this. I can bring these psalmists’ words to God, maybe even scream them into my pillow or yell them at the top of my lungs in my car. This way I release the anger without subjecting those around me to it.
As you pray through these psalms, notice which words and phrases the Holy Spirit highlights for you. Where is your anger justified? Where does your anger have to do with shame or hurt? Where do you feel uncomfortable about being angry with God? What does God reveal and bring to the surface as you join Him in the anger?
Psalms for when you’re joyful
(Psalm 8, 65, 100, 145, 146)
This is probably the most natural way to pray the Psalms. Yet, it can still reveal so much about how you view praise and adoration of the Lord.
As you pray through these psalms, consider these questions: What does worship look like for you? Do these psalms motivate you to have a specific worship posture? What characteristics or names of God do you most easily connect with? Which ones feel more out of your comfort zone?
Psalms for when you’re grieving
(Psalm 4, 6, 9, 86)
I find it beneficial to pray the psalms when I’m grieving. The grief may be because of personal losses, my sin, or the impact of someone else’s sin.
As you pray through these psalms, name what you’re grieving before you start praying. Notice if what you initially thought you were grieving changed. Was there another layer to your grief that you didn’t expect? What did the Holy Spirit highlight for you as you prayed?
Psalms for when you’re confused
(Psalm 1, 16, 73, 112, 119)
These psalms focus on God’s wisdom in comparison with the world’s. Making decisions can sometimes be a high-stress task, especially those decisions that significantly impact your life. Praying through these psalms can offer you the comparison of how the world thinks versus how God thinks.
As you pray through these psalms, what decisions do you need to bring before the Lord? What causes confusion? Which words or phrases stick out to you and what might the Holy Spirit being saying through these? What resources has the Lord provided that could offer more clarity in a specific situation?
Psalms for when you’re lonely
(Psalm 23, 27, 31, 42, 102)
Knowing God is with you always is a combative truth against loneliness. But sometimes we don’t know why we’re lonely or how to be with God in that. It’s easy to fill up the empty space with entertainment, social media, working overtime, or even more people-time. What if God wants to reveal more about your loneliness?
As you pray these psalms, what seems to be the cause of loneliness? When does it feel like God’s presence with you isn’t enough? How would you put the psalmist’s words into your own?
In “The Cry of the Soul,” authors Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III describe the Psalms as a needed, disruptive voice:
“The Psalms teach us how to praise and worship. But they also teach us how to wrestle with doubt until it gives way to the first rays of hope. The Psalms light our way on the path of change.”
Often we glaze over what we’re feeling — especially when it’s uncomfortable — in an attempt to grab hold of what we think is better. But in using the disruptive voices of the psalmists as prayer, we instead grab hold of God and let Him reveal how He can be with us in every feeling.
Copyright 2022 Krishana Kraft. All Rights Reserved.