Prayer is one of the chief blessings of the Christian life – but one that many Christians struggle with. I know all too well the feeling of wanting to pray but not knowing what to say. I can often repeat the same tired phrases and find my prayers repetitive and dull. Many of us find prayer hard, and even feel guilty about this. Perhaps we’re tempted to give up.
For a number of years now I’ve been using the Psalms to fuel my prayers, which I’ve found a great blessing. Rather than being a constraint, having some words to get me started has led me to pray longer, richer and more Biblical prayers – and to take greater delight in doing so.
Some parts of the Psalms are obviously prayers – and we can join in with the psalmist, and retune our hearts to pray in line with God’s will. There are prayers for every occasion, prayers for all seasons of the soul.
But it’s not just the parts of the Psalms that are obviously prayers to God that we can use for our own prayers. The Psalms are full of glorious truths about God and promises he has made to his people. Any promise of God can also become words we pray back to him — after all, prayer is always asking for what God has promised to give. We can exercise delightful dependence on our Lord by praying for the very things he has promised, knowing that these are prayers he loves to hear and answer. We can pray for ourselves, but we can also pray for other people. Next time we say to someone ‘I’ll pray for you,’ we can find in the Psalms words to help us follow through on that good intention!
Here are 5 examples of letting a verse from a Psalm fuel our prayers:
1. Psalm 16:1
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
‘Preserve me O God, for in you I take refuge’ is a prayer to pray on our days of ‘strength’ as well as on days when we know ourselves to be weak. We never move on from utter dependence on our Lord. As Jesus said, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
These are words we could use to pray for others as well. We can use them to pray for God to watch over those we love: ‘Lord, preserve Naomi today, for you are her refuge.’ But we could also use them to pray for people to share the psalmist’s perspective: ‘Lord, may Naomi be like the psalmist today, and find her refuge in you. May she look to you in harder times, not look elsewhere.’ I can think of few prayers I’d rather someone pray for me than this: that the Lord would preserve me, and that in times of trial I’d look to him as my refuge. Is there someone you might pray these words for?
2. Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
The Lord is my light. The Lord is my salvation. The Lord is my stronghold. These truths are the bedrock on which we stand. Why not make these a prayer you repeat regularly?
Lord, this world is dark — be my light.
Lord, my trials are great — be my salvation.
Lord, I don’t feel strong — be the stronghold of my life.
Why not pray these words for those you know and love who are in distress?
Lord, be their light, their salvation and stronghold.
3. Psalm 27:5
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
These are precious images to meditate on. They are promises to push deep into our souls. But we’ve seen that we can lay hold of these promises as we pray them back to God — and perhaps for some of us, these are words we need today:
Lord, hide me in your shelter in this day of trouble
Father, conceal me under the cover of your tent. May I find peace and security in your presence.
Lord Jesus, lift me high into you, my rock and my place of safety.
4. Psalm 27:13
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Psalm 27:13 provides words to set as the background music of our lives. I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. These are words to turn into prayer: ‘Lord, open my eyes to see your goodness today.’ These are words to pray for our loved ones, ‘Lord even in this time of trial, may they see your goodness and grace.’
5. Psalm 147:1
Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
In calling us to praise, God is seeking what is best for us. It is good to sing praises. It is pleasant, it is fitting. It brings us joy! God is inviting us to know the good life.The reasons for praise will be all that this and other psalms have celebrated: the character of God, in particular his saving care for his people.
Praise the Lord, for he is star–namer; joy–maker; mountain–raiser;
He is lamb–gatherer; foot–washer; tear–bottler;
prayer–answerer; joy–bringer; comfort–speaker;
outcast–gatherer; heart–healer; wound–binder.
Praise the Lord because he is our light and our life,
our portion and our cup
our salvation and stronghold,
our greatest and highest joy.
Praise the Lord because he is ours and we are his forever!
This extract is adapted from Matt Searles upcoming book, Be Still, available to order here.