Why You Should Pray the Psalms Daily
While the Bible is the most popular collection or “library” of books in the world, the Book of Psalms is the most popular singular book. These ancient poetic songs of prayer span the ages. When prayed, they not only become powerful on behalf of the individual but that of the entire Universal Church — indeed the whole world!
Found intricately woven into every divine word of the psalms there is, in addition to a private necessity, a public and communal dimension for the praying soul; a dimension that incorporates praying for all the spiritual needs of the world. This is precisely what makes the psalms not only personally and domestically effective but internationally transformative as well.
This is why you and I should pray the Psalms daily.
It is worthwhile to take a moment and reflect upon this fact: when we pray the Psalms, we are praying in union with our Lord Jesus Christ Himself! We additionally unite our prayers (the psalms) with the spoken likes of King David and all the other saintly composers of the psalms, as well as Christ’s holy apostles. Wow! Adding to its power, when the psalms are prayed Holy Scripture, the very Word of God, is being activated in our lives. Whenever we pray the living and transforming Word of God, we can be sure that our lives will change.
While most of us do not (and cannot) attend Mass daily, everyone can pray a few psalms daily — and in doing so, we partake in what is known as the holy liturgy of Mother Church. This is not to say that the psalms are a substitute for the sacrifice of the Mass. Nothing is. But praying these prayers unites the soul with the liturgy of the Church and her universal prayer for the world and, thus, worthy of being incorporated into the foundation of every Christian’s prayer life. As we become more familiar with the psalms through recitation, we in essence shape our mind and heart according to God’s own sacred heart and mind.
What is the theme of the Psalms
While the Psalms span the whole range of human attitudes and emotions, there is one primary theme the psalmists always return to: praise, worship, and adoration. No wonder these prayers were preserved in Holy Scripture! This is exactly how we should pray to our Lord, with a heart overflowing with praise, worship, and utmost adoration.
In His omniscience, God knew that if our prayers were not predominately ones of praise that our hearts would drift from Him and our prayers would fall short of His preferred prayer pattern. After all, praise on earth is our rehearsal for Heaven! When we praise the Lord through prayer, our soul finds peace; a kind of peace and joy that transcends understanding here below. In this peace, which is built upon praise, our worries and worldly cares dissipate.
How are the Psalms to be prayed?
So how are the Psalms to be prayed? To best understand this, let’s peer back in time and understand how our earliest brothers and sisters in Christ understood it from the beginning.
In the first centuries of the Church, the Psalms were primarily an expression of a Christian’s personal prayer life. The faithful were known to pray all 150 psalms every week, week after week. It is somewhat incomprehensible for us today, thinking back to the time of St. Jerome around 420 A.D., when farmers would pray all one hundred and fifty Psalms from memory as they worked in the field; workmen singing them from their shops and women praying them aloud while taking care of their families. It’s no wonder children learned the psalms at such an early age.
In “the good old days,” prayer was a common element in most homes and the memorization of the psalms was nothing out of the ordinary. Not only was it encouraged and achievable, it was even necessary in some cases such as ordination into the priesthood or entrance into a convent. It’s no wonder again why there were so many saints during those times.
Our earliest ancestors did not merely pray the psalms, they lived them. They understood the power of the psalms and made it a daily discipline to pray them aloud and live them out in their everyday lives. This fact has been confirmed from, among other historical facts, the many homilies on the psalms ingrained into Sunday sermons of the greatest Saints of antiquity: Origen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, and many more.
In reading the early writings and homilies of the Church, it becomes clear that the laity to whom the great Saints preached had great familiarity with the psalms and knew how to implement these powerful prayers into their daily lives. While the passing of the great Church Fathers in the fifth century led to a sharp decline in praying and memorizing the psalms, the Church, by a stroke of divine protection, maintained them as part of her official and liturgical prayer life.
Knowing how important the psalms were to our Lord and earliest Christian family and Church should be enough to convince us of their power today. Because of their inexhaustible depth and power, the Psalms should be prayed throughout our entire lifetime. While praying them, we are encouraged to meditate upon all the rich discoveries of our own lives which are cued by such words as victory, grace, love, trust, judgment, and reward — in other words, all the themes that give the Christian life its true meaning and purpose.
Let it be our task then — a richly rewarding task at that! — to restore the Psalter to its proper place of honor in our daily prayer lives. As a sacred heritage passed onto us, the treasury of the earliest Church’s finest prayers, the Psalms, are a bounty of blessing and power given to us by our Lord and Savior Himself … and is readily available for us today. Just as the Psalms (and harvest thereof) will last forever, so too will the eternal benefits of the soul to whomever is committed to praying them.
Remember this my friend, you are called to become a Saint … and the Psalms are one of the surest ways to get you there. Enjoy them!