Prayer is a two-way communication between us and God. One of the wonderful privileges of prayer is that we can come to God “just as we are.” The blood of Christ gives us the privilege to enter the throne room of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). However, it is important to also grow in our prayer-communication with God. And the primer used for growing us in prayer is the Psalms.
The Psalms were used to teach Israel how to pray to the LORD. In the 150 Psalms we see just about every type of human situation and context for prayer. It shows us how to praise and to give thanks. It shows us how to offer a petition or a supplication. It shows us how to pour out our hearts. It bears in mind both the holiness of God and the compassion of God. It teaches us to be authentic, but not flippant or too familiar with the Lord.
I believe one of the best ways to pray the Psalms is through the Daily Office (also called the Divine Office or Prayer of the Hours). The Daily Office consists of several prayers (morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night prayers). The Psalms are usually the centerpiece of the prayers in the Daily Office (although other Scriptures may be used). The Daily Office is meant to be done in community (and it is very powerful to pray the Office with others), but I find it helpful in my Personal Worship Time.
There are two sources for the Daily Office: a Protestant version through the Anglican Church (which utilizes the Book of Common Prayer) and a Catholic version. Depending on which tradition you feel most comfortable. The Catholic version does utilize some of the apocryphal books in their readings – albeit rarely – and there is an occasional reference to Mary that some might not feel comfortable with. I personally use Phyllis Tickle’s “The Divine Hours” in my personal worship of God. It is a little bulky and when I’m on the road, I have an electronic version of “Hour by Hour” on my Kindle app – which is an abbreviated form of the Daily Office.
The Daily Office helps me to pray the Psalms, which teach me how to pray to God more reverently and confidently. I also find that it is helpful to not have to “think so hard” when I pray. Spontaneous prayer can be tiresome and very effort ladened; as well, it can become very self-focused or self-absorbed. Praying the Office takes that responsibility out of my hands. Like riding on the back end of a “bicycle-built-for-two” I can rely on someone else to drive the bike while I just focus on engagement.
But regardless of whether or not you use the Office as a part of your Personal Worship, it is good to make the Psalms a regular part of our prayer training. Billy Graham once shared with me (and 17,000 other college students at #urbana76 missionary conference) that his Personal Worship involved the reading of 5 Psalms a day (he read through the Psalms and Proverbs once a month). And I think his prayer life was pretty effective!
Are you growing in your prayer life?
What has helped you to connect with God in a deeper, more Biblical manner?