For generations, Christians have prayed and sung the Psalms. It was the prayer book of Jesus. It is the Old Testament book most often quoted in the New. The songs found in this book form the bedrock of both corporate worship and also individual devotion.
Through thousands of years of memorization, recitation, and singing, the people of God have found in this book a God-centered view of reality—words that put into perspective all our emotions, conflicting desires, times of suffering, and experiences of faith and doubt. “There are other prayers in the Bible,” Tim Keller writes, “but no other place where you have an entire course of theology in prayer form, and no other place where you have every possible heart condition represented, along with the way to process that situation before God.”
Songwriter Michael Card writes:
“The psalms are a connection for us. When I’m lamenting, I may feel disconnected from God. The psalms express that experience. When I’m joyful, the psalms give me language to connect to that joy and remember that it comes from God. He never slumbers. He never sleeps. In the end, the psalms provide for every need, all those misconnections, all the things we’re hungry for, all the correctives we need to remind us that life isn’t about us, but is really all about him. The psalms are a bottomless resource for all the things we need.”
When you pray the psalms, you may not feel all of the emotions or passions of the psalmist when you read. But that’s the point. “The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote. “It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart.”
Psalms Every Month
Many Christians over the years have adopted the habit of reading through the Psalms every month. Read five psalms a day, and in 30 days, you’ll have made your way through the psalter. The only challenge with this approach is the varying length of the psalms. Some are just a few verses, while Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is hard to form and keep a habit if the time required fluctuates so wildly.
To that end, I have adapted a centuries-old approach to reading the psalms found in The Book of Common Prayer by extending a “Morning” and “Evening” reading of psalms into a “Morning,” “Midday,” and “Evening” pattern. There is precedent in the Scriptures for praying three times a day, and there is spiritual blessing in deliberately punctuating your day with moments of prayer and Bible-reading. The three-times-a-day approach is designed to lift your eyes above your current circumstances and to remind you that God is the blazing center of all things.
Prayers of Faithful Christians
Over the years, I’ve also found the written prayers of faithful Christians who have gone before me to be a help in my prayer life. Praying the written prayers of saints from years gone by is a lot like children trying on the shoes of their parents. We wonder if our feet will ever fit into the spiritual shoes of the giants who have gone before us. We wonder if our devotion will match the intensity and clarity we find in their words. We want hearts oriented in such a way that we would ask for and desire the right things.
Praying the Psalms alongside other Scriptures and other faithful expressions of faith over the years is one way of forming our hearts and minds daily.
Psalms in 30 Days Project
This guide book (available for free, in digital form) relies on a pattern of prayer I developed in 2019. It is the pattern I return to most regularly as I seek to pray through the psalms every month. Here you will find all the psalms, as translated in the Christian Standard Bible, arranged in three-times-a-day readings for 30 days.
Before and after the psalms, you will find Scriptures and prayers that follow the specific themes found in the calendar of the Christian year. Every week is a mini-journey through the story of the gospel:
- Day 1: Anticipation for Christ’s coming
- Day 2: The incarnation of Christ
- Day 3: The manifestation of Christ’s glory in the world
- Day 4: Repentance and the cross of Christ
- Day 5: The resurrection power of Christ
- Day 6: The power and presence of the Holy Spirit
- Day 7: The glory of the Triune God
Every prayer time begins with a call to prayer and includes the Gloria, the Lord’s Prayer, and closes with a biblical blessing.
The morning prayer guide includes a “confession of faith” taken from Scripture, the ancient creeds, or a recent confession released in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The evening prayer guide includes a “confession of sin” and a biblical promise of absolution to all who repent.
The morning and evening prayers also include songs from Scripture as well as written prayers from Christians through the ages, and a time set aside for you to intercede on behalf of others and bring your personal requests to the Lord.
The midday prayer guide is abbreviated, usually with a shorter selection from the Psalms, since this is the time of day when it may be more challenging to carve out 10 or 15 minutes for prayer.
Suggestions for Regularly Praying the Psalms
- If you print out the guide, set it on a desk, nightstand, or table close to your bed, where you will see it. Let it be a visual reminder whenever you enter the room that nudges you to spend time with the Lord.
- Pray the morning selection as soon as you wake up and the evening selection just before going to bed.
- The abbreviated midday routine is ideal for a brief pause during work, but if you miss a midday prayer time, simply add that psalm selection to the evening prayer guide in order to catch up.
- If you only wish to pray the Psalms and not the other selected prayers, simply jump to that portion of the prayer guide and pray the selected psalms three times daily.
My prayer is that this guide will help you make praying through the psalms a regular spiritual discipline that strengthens your love for God and neighbor. May the faithful love of the Lord rest on you, as you put your hope in him (Ps. 33:22).
Trevin Wax is senior vice president of Theology and Communications at LifeWay Christian Resources and a visiting professor at Wheaton College. He is the general editor of The Gospel Project, and the author of multiple books.