A clergy person once told me (actually several have) that they never plan their homilies around the Lectionary prescribed Psalm. One even stated to me that the Psalms were irrelevant. The Psalms were the songs of David, Jesus prayed the psalms, they are the prayerbook of the bible and can be a great source of inspiration, healing, care and calm. They also help us to understand our biblical roots, history, culture, poetry, stories, prayers, concerns and ultimately, ourselves. The psalms offer opportunities for adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. They cover a wide range of human desire and emotion while they are also a treasure of philosophy, spirituality and life lessons.
For anyone who doesn’t know how to pray, can’t find the time to pray, meditate or contemplate, the Psalms are a great tool for you. You don’t have to study the whole Psalm but only use a portion of it. For example, take a single line which you can use as a mantra and repeat to yourself several times during the day. Pick one, any one. Here are a few examples how you can pray with the psalms.
Let’s say you are 18 years old and are leaving home to go off to college. This is the first time you are going to be on your own or away from home and you are nervous about this new adventure. You can turn to Psalm 27, for instance, and repeat the phrase; “The Lord is my Light and my salvation, of whom shall I be afraid.”
Maybe you have to go to the hospital for a test or a procedure in the morning. When you wake up, you can repeat this line from Psalm 63; “As morning breaks, I look to You, I look to You Lord to be my strength this day.”
What if you are a walker and are enjoying a long stroll on a beach, you might repeat a phrase from Psalm 69, “Let the heavens and the earth praise God’s name, the sea and all it’s living creatures.”
For the person who is struggling with addiction, guilt, hate, anger or wants to change something in their life, maybe repeating Psalm 51 can help them get through their challenge, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.”
I know of a congregation who lost their church building to a fire and a Psalm which offered some of them great comfort in the rebuilding process was Psalm 42: “Why should I mourn and toil within when it is mine to hope in God.”
If a friend is struggling with a difficult decision, you can quote them a line from Psalm 34, “Call upon the Lord, you’ll want for nothing if you ask.”
Try it. Physicist Erwin Schroedinger once said “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” You don’t need any special books or instructions to do it. Just open to the book of Psalms and start reading until you find a sentence which resonates with you. Write it down on a piece of paper or text it to yourself and refer to it several times during the day. I guarantee after a few weeks of doing this, one of these mantras or incantations will come back to you in a time when you need it and it will be good.
When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God. -Psalm 73.