The gospels record 7 ‘statements’ from Christ as he was crucified. Three of those are prayers. Two of those three prayers are explicit quotes from the Psalms:

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) is the ‘cry of desolation’, the opening of Psalm 22.

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) seeks refuge, picking up from Psalm 31.

Christ’s direct appropriation of the Psalms is a reminder of how all Scripture works – finding fulfilment in Him. It affirms Christ’s true identity: He is the ‘yes’ to every promise of God.  

Added to that, Jesus’ turning Psalms into prayer when suffering and sorely tested is a model for us.

Psalms are the prayer book for God’s people.

The Psalms model how to speak to God, shaped by the extra insight of God’s answer in Christ. They give us words when we don’t know what to pray. They provide a common language, so we can come and pray together as God’s people. They protect us from our culture’s individualism, to pray collectively and in solidarity with others. They cover the breadth of human experience. Calvin called Psalms an anatomy of all the parts of the soul” –

“… there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or, rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.’ 

John Calvin, ‘The Anatomy of the Soul’

The breadth of the Psalms show us how to bring everything to God in prayer.

Douglas Webster explains the title of his book on Psalms, ‘Jesus’s Prayer Book:

‘We embrace the Psalms because they are God’s answer to us and our answer to God. The Psalms hold up both sides of the conversation. We hear the voice of God in the Psalms and we discover our own voice—God’s will and our will in dialogue.

The Psalms are instruments of grace, tools of being and becoming, that guide us in true spirituality. By praying the Psalms, we learn what it is to be both human and holy in the presence of God. Their rhythmic arrangement, juxtaposing praise and pain, hate and love, saves us from shallow optimism and ornamental spirituality.

Through the Psalms we gain a true understanding of ourselves and we enter into solidarity with the Body of Christ. In order to make the Psalms our own, we learn to pray the Psalms on behalf of others—the global church and the household of faith. We pray the Psalms in the light of Christ and in sync with our personal experience. Unselfish skill is required to line up the Psalms with life, to discover the deep correspondence between God’s will and the human condition. And perhaps some courage is needed as well.’

Douglas Webster

Our new sermon series: Praying the Psalms

As we seek to grow as dependent disciples, April’s sermons will be ‘Praying the Psalms’. We can’t touch on all 150, but we’re looking at a representative sample (and will return later in the year to look at others). We’re doing the same at various points in the year in our Growth Groups. Each time, we’ll look at the Psalms through a lens of how they shape our prayer-life. This constant dipping in and out allows God’s word to keep shaping our praise and petitions. To make the most of this time, trying adopting Psalm 19:14 as a daily (or weekly) request:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight,  O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

In Him,

Mark Smith
Senior Minister | Congregational Pastor 8am & 7pm