City Alliance Church is diving into Book 1 of the Psalms (Psalm 1 through 41) this summer. We're inviting you to share in community by reading, meditating, and praying through the Psalms over the next three months.
HOW TO MEDITATE ON THE PSALMS
The content below on reading and praying Psalms comes from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Lectio Divina, or “Divine Reading,” involves meditative listening to the reading, out loud and slowly, of a short passage or a few isolated verses of Scripture. It can be down on your own or with a group.
Those who listen are encouraged to set aside analysis, and what they “know” already about the passage, seeking instead to open themselves to God’s word, listen with their hearts, and receive it expectantly and passively. They then attend to what they receive from God. God’s word is received personally, as an individualized gift to each person.
Choose a short Scripture passage for your meditation, and it is to be read out loud slowly. Quiet yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to guard and guide your meditation.
- First reading. One-minute silent reflection before God. Take notice of whatever captures your attention in the passage or in your inner experience.
- Second reading. One-minute silent reflection. Listen for a single word or phrase that particularly strikes you.
- Third reading. Three to five minutes of silent reflection. Listen to how the passage seems to touch your life experience.
- Fourth reading. Three to five minutes of silent reflection. What do you feel the passage might be inviting you to do? What is God inviting you to be? How is God inviting you to change? Spend some time in prayer over what you received from God’s word, and give thanks for his gift to you.
The Psalms teach us to pray through imitation and response. Real prayer is always an answer to God’s revelation. The Psalms are both prayer and revelations about God — the perfect ideal soil for learning prayer.
The Psalms take us deep into our own hearts 1,000 times faster than we would ever go if left to ourselves. The Psalmists neither “stuff” their feelings nor “ventilate” them. They pray them — they take them into the presence of God until they change or understand them.
Most importantly, the Psalms force us to deal with God as he is, not as we wish he was. “Left to ourselves, we will pray to some god who speaks what we like hearing, or to the part of God we manage to understand. But what is critical is that we speak to the God who speaks to us, and to everything he speaks to us...the Psalms train us in that conversation.” (from Eugene Peterson’s Answering God).
- Try to understand a Psalm before praying it. A commentary is particularly helpful to understand the context of the Psalm. What was the Psalmist going through when he wrote this particular Psalm? The Psalms also point to Christ. Where might this psalm fit into his life?
- Linger over a Psalm. Is there a particular verse that is particularly relevant to your life right now? Read it aloud over and over, with a different emphasis on each word. Why is this word chosen or important here? What difference would this make in my life if I believed this with all my heart? If I applied this to my life? Pray for yourself and others from it.
- Use the Psalms to praise God for different aspects of his character. Echo the content of the Psalm as your own prayer to God.
Take small steps. 15-20 minutes a day would be a great starting point. Don’t rush. Don’t worry about doing this perfectly, just start! Invite the Holy Spirit into these times and let his grace and truth shape your prayer and heart. Stay at it for three weeks — research shows that it takes about three weeks to build a habit. Be alert to what differences might be happening in your relationship with the Lord and your life as a result.
BOOKS (FOR FURTHER INSPIRATION & STUDY)
- Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer (Eugene Peterson)
- Found: Psalm 23 (Sally Lloyd-Jones)*
- Learning to Love the Psalms (W. Robert Godfrey)
- My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms (Susan & Richie Hunt)*
- Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit (Walter Brueggeman)
- Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible (Deitrich Bonhoeffer)
- Psalms by the Day: A New Devotional Translation (Alec Motyer)
- Reflections on the Psalms (C.S. Lewis)
- The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (N.T. Wright)
- The Songs of Jesus (Timothy Keller)
*Recommended for children.