The purpose of this paper is to share with you, the reader, where I was with my faith relationship through the Psalms and their role in my prayer life. How, through education in the background, exegesis and relevance of the Psalms coupled with a functional practice of praying them regularly, I have cultivated my faith and strengthened my gratitude for them. Lastly, I wish to offer some advice to others who have not found value in the Psalms (where I once was). These insights are offered in the hope that they (the Psalms) will add more meaning to the prayer life of those seeking to enhance their spiritual life.
As little as five years ago, whenever I attempted to read Scripture I would often “flip” open the Bible and proceed to read a couple of paragraphs or a short chapter looking for inspiration from the Holy Spirit (Lectio Divino). Often my “flipping” would land me in the Psalms. I shamefully admit that I would quickly re-flip to something I deemed more suitable. It is a sad fact; I had almost no relationship with the Psalms. Worst still, I had no desire to develop a relationship. To me the Psalms seemed cryptic, chaotic, and incoherent. They were boring and irrelevant with little to no connection to the modern world.
Education, in no small way, was responsible for opening my eyes to much of the value that the Psalms hold for me today. The historical background was a foundation on which to build that knowledge. For as stated in the book, The School of Prayer, “Israel’s history is the church’s history”. From Israel’s history we see that the Psalms were developed over a long period of time extending from King David’s dynasty until deep into the Babylonian exile (over 500 years). The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms this “From the time of David to the coming of the Messiah texts appearing in these sacred books show a deepening in prayer for oneself and in prayer for others.” As I started to study Old Testament Scripture, my appreciation for my Jewish historical roots took on a deeper meaning. I began to have a better appreciation of the wisdom and prayer life of the psalmists. I suddenly could identify a dialogue between God in constant communication with his chosen people, the Israelites.
But what are the psalms or psalter? Actually, we derive the title “book of Psalms” from New Testament Scripture (Luke 20:42, Acts 1:20). The prevailing title psalmoi, referencing songs sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments was used by the early Christians who read the Greek translated Septuagint . Another often used term to reference this beautiful collection of poetry and songs is the word, Psalter. It is derived from psalterion which is bound in one codex of the Greek Bible, referring primarily to a zither – like instrument, and secondarily to songs sung to stringed accompaniment. While the Greek titles emphasize the musical dimension of the Psalms, the title in the Hebrew Bible, tehillim which means “praises” focuses on their...