How do we pray the Psalms?
Orthodoxy has many standard prayers that can be used by the faithful when we pray at home and Church. Such standard prayers include the Psalms, God’s own ”Prayer Book”. The Psalms teach us how, what and when to pray. When we recite them prayerfully and with faith, God speaks and enlightens us in accordance with our individual needs and circumstances. Further, the Psalms gradually become a part of our own daily lives when committed to memory by constant repetition and studied in their context to the rest of the Bible with the aid of commentaries by Church Fathers.
For an Orthodox Christian however, the danger is not to let the daily reading of the Psalms become something impersonal that stops us from establishing a real relationship with God. Rather, the daily reading of the Psalms should act as a launch pad into a life of ceaseless prayer where we are completely immersed in Christ.
According to St Athanasios the Great, praying the Psalms engages us in a continuous encounter and conversation with our Lord Jesus Christ. We find ourselves constantly invoking His “great and awesome name” or requesting that the light of His face should shine upon us (Psalm 67:1). We find ourselves regularly joining in with His prayers offered “on behalf of humanity” or making our own calls upon His mercy, His salvation or His deliverance.
The Psalms can also be viewed Christologically, that is, seeing in the Psalms clear references to Jesus Christ. For example, Psalm 22 is a foreshadowing of the Passion and therefore the words, “Protect me, O Lord, for in you did I hope”, constitute a prayer of Christ Himself to the Father.
The praying of the Psalms should be done with the realisation that we are standing before God and are in His very presence. Though it may not seem like we are praying or asking the Lord for anything, in fact we are. The act of standing in His presence and reading His Word is prayer itself.
Source: August-September 2015 Lychnos Edition