Praying with the Psalms

For thousands of years, the 150 prayers compiled in the Book of Psalms have been used in both public worship: At every Mass, they are used in the Liturgy of the Word during the Responsorial Psalm. But what about private worship? Surely, the Psalms have not been relegated to the Mass alone. How can we employ the Psalms as a way to privately worship and speak to God on our own meditative terms?

Josh Raymond welcomed Father Rob Kroll onto The Inner Life to talk about how we can better use the Psalms as a tool to speak with Our Lord intimately.

Father Rob began by explaining the background of the Psalms for those who are unfamiliar. The Book of Psalms is part of the Wisdom literature and was mostly written by King David. What Father Rob said he especially loved about this collection of prayers and songs is that they encompass such a wide range of human emotions and experiences.

There are psalms that are filled with joy and praise and are focused intently on praising and glorifying God:

“Hallelujah! Praise, you servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD both now and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the LORD be praised.” (Psalm 113:1-3)

And in other Psalms, we see great sorrow and lamentation where the Psalmist is crying out to God for help and asking for salvation:

“A psalm of David. For remembrance. LORD, do not punish me in your anger; in your wrath do not chastise me! Your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me. There is no wholesomeness in my flesh because of your anger; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. My iniquities overwhelm me, a burden too heavy for me.” (Psalm 38:1-5)

And amidst this great range of different chapters, we can find psalms that speak to us on a very personal level. There will be times when we can open the Bible and find that a psalm filled with such intense emotion speaks to a specific situation that we’re going through in our lives. Josh said that the Psalms remind him of classical music, specifically Johann Sebastian Bach’s Clavier collection. In it, Bach included preludes and fugues that span a range of keys and tempos, just as the psalms span a range of emotions.

“Every time Bach writes in a minor key – which has that darker sound – he always, by the end, resolves to a major chord as a final positive. And there’s a lot of psalms that meet us at different places in our lives,” said Josh.

He likened these pieces by Bach to David’s lamentations in the psalms where he cries out for God’s intervention. David asks where God is. “Why has He forsaken me?” But always, by the end, David resolves his blindness to God’s influence and recognizes the way in which God is carrying him through each crisis.

“I love that about the psalms,” continued Josh. “It meets you where you are, but it doesn’t just leave you there. It doesn’t just say, ‘Well, things are pretty bad.’ It says, ‘No, things are bad, and we can acknowledge that. But let’s not forget who’s in control of everything in the end.’”

The Psalms might typically be remembered as that part of the Mass where you listen to the cantor read the psalm, and you repeat the response in chorus. But the Psalms are not only valuable in the Liturgy of the Word. They provide a portal into conversations of God that doesn’t necessitate recited prayer. They give words to the feelings and emotions of our personal struggles and triumphs that we otherwise might not be able to express. And they give insight into the difficulty felt by every human, even one who was divinely chosen to be king.

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.