Praying a Psalm

Today’s reading is Psalm 31.

If Psalm 31 proves anything, it proves we are allowed to and probably should make it a habit to pray the psalms. That doesn’t necessarily mean picking out a psalm and praying through it (though that would be great too). It can mean adopting the language and the statements of the psalms in our own prayers. There are several statements in this psalm used in other psalms. “Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily” from vs. 2 is found almost verbatim in Psalm 102:2. “My eye wastes away because of grief” from vs. 9 is found in Psalm 6:7. “Save me in your steadfast love” from vs. 16 is found in Psalm 6:4; 54:1; 106:8; 109:26. Whether these other psalms are quoting Psalm 31 or vice versa, the point is the same. These were standard and stock phrases that could be used in prayers of all kinds. “I am cut off from your sight” from vs. 22 is basically restated in Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2:4. “Let me not be put to shame” from vs. 17 is Jeremiah’s prayer in Jeremiah 17:18. And “terror on every side” from vs. 13 becomes a mantra for Jeremiah. He repeats it in Jeremiah 6:25; 20:3, 10; 46:5; 49:29; and Lamentation 2:22. And if none of these make the point, “Into your hand I commit my spirit,” was one of Jesus’s seven statements on the cross (Luke 23:46). For some reason, some have developed the idea that we shouldn’t quote Scripture in prayer. God already knows the Scripture, they tell us. Prayer should come from our heart, they tell us. Clearly, they are wrong in what they tell us. God has given us prayers in Scripture to teach us how to pray. Those statements inform our mouths how to express what is in our hearts. Jesus prayed Psalm 31 on the cross because Psalm 31 represented (for the most part) where He was. David’s faith and trust mirrored the faith Jesus had and even taught those who might be listening to His prayer what was actually going on in the moment. Oh, and by the way, that’s another thing we learn from psalms. It is true that when we are praying, we don’t need to preach a sermon. It is true that we are talking to God, not to those who are listening. But sometimes, it is appropriate to pray certain things in order to instruct those who are listening in. If you don’t believe me based on the psalms, check out Jesus’s prayer in John 11:41-42. Keep reading these psalms. You may never end up on a cross, but I guarantee you, you will wind up in plenty of circumstances in which the words, phrases, statements, requests, confessions, praises, and blessings apply to your situation; you’ll want to be able to express them.

Monday’s reading is Psalm 32.

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