Yesterday I finished reading a book entitled Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent. One of the appendices is about praying the Scripture. The author encouraged his readers to read one Psalm a day, using them to shape our prayers. What he wrote put into words and affirmed the very thing the Holy Spirit had been leading me to do! Each morning in my "quiet time" with God, I read one Psalm. When I come to Psalm 119, I usually read one section. With this practice I can read through the Psalms twice every year. The Psalms are the prayers of God's people. Through the Psalms we are given a window into the hearts of those who wrote them. We hear their real-life, real-time heart cries. Sometimes they are bursting with praise, sometimes grieved over their own sin or the sin of others, sometimes crying out in deep distress for deliverance, sometimes needing guidance, sometimes marveling at God's creative genius, sometimes thanking God for answers to prayer.
As I read a psalm each morning, I make them my own, letting the words of the psalm become my own prayers. Each psalm leads me to different topics or a particular focus in prayer. What the psalmist was going through touches something in my own life that I can readily relate to. As the author of the book puts it: "As we start our devotions by listening to the Word in this way, we allow God to open the conversation on the subject of His choice." That sentence caught my attention. The Psalms are God's prayer book. By reading a psalm each day, we are allowing God to "open the conversation" and direct our thoughts to "the subject of His choice." As I've been reading through the Psalms, I've found my thoughts directed to the needs of different individuals; to social issues of our day; to governmental needs, both national and worldwide; to needs within our church and the universal church; to those who are suffering, who are grieving, who are sick, and who are persecuted. The Psalms help me enter into the real-life, real-time situations that are happening now in our day. Because the psalmists are so gut-level honest, they give me greater empathy and greater depth of understanding into what thoughts and feelings those various situations stir up. But they also put into words my own thoughts and feelings—and they turn them into prayers. Again quoting the author: "Try going through the psalms, one a day. As you allow God to open the conversation on a subject of His choice, you can respond in the appropriate way." Let God lead you through the Psalms into prayer.