A Roadmap for Praying the Psalms

This quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic Life Together radically changed my understanding of the psalms and prayer itself.

… the whole sweep of the Book of Psalms was concerned with nothing more nor less than the brief petitions of the LORD’s Prayer.” (Life Together, 50).

In other words, if you were to summarize all that Jesus had to each us about prayer it would boil down to to this:

Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation. (Luke 11:2-4)

The Lord’s Prayer provides structure to prayer. The psalms brings the structure to life. They are a collection of 150 of the finest prayers we have that teach us what it means to worship God in prayer (“hallowed be your name”), pray that God’s kingdom and justice will break into our world (“your kingdom come”), ask God for our daily needs (“give us this day our daily bread”), pray prayers of repentance (“forgive us our sins, for we forgive everyone who sins against us”) and to pray for divine protection (“lead us not into temptation”).

I began to see the psalms in a new way when I understood that the psalms provide us with the language to express the simple desires outlined in the Lord’s Prayer. The psalms teach us to pray the way Jesus prayed.

I taught these concepts to a small group when someone asked, “these ideas are great, but where do we find these psalms? Is there a roadmap for the psalms?” What follows is my attempt to provide a few psalms for each part of the Lord’s Prayer. Most psalms reflect more than one of the petitions, but the ones selected below will primarily on one.  If you have other examples, post them as a comment. I’d love to see this collection grow.

Your Kingdom Come
(Aligning our desires with God’s desires – God’s will done on earth.)
Psalms: 2, 110

Give us this day our daily bread
(Asking for our daily needs.)
Psalms: 4 (A Prayer for the Evening), 5 (A Prayer for the Morning), 88, 90, 104,

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
(Repentance and Forgiveness.)
Psalms: 6, 32, 38, 51, 130

Lead us not into temptation
(Prayers for overcoming sin and divine protection.)
Psalms: 27, 141

One thought on “A Roadmap for Praying the Psalms

  1. Pingback: Praying Through the Psalms – Pacific Union Connect

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