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What the Psalms can teach us about prayer


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Philip Kosloski - published on 01/22/24

The Catechism devotes several paragraphs to the Psalms, pointing out the many lessons we can learn from them.
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Among the many books of the Bible, the Psalms stand out as one of the most conducive books for prayer.

In fact, the Psalms are essentially a collection of prayers that continue to be used in the Church’s official liturgies.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church spends several paragraphs dwelling on the Psalms, calling the book a “masterwork of prayer“:

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. Thus the psalms were gradually collected into the five books of the Psalter (or “Praises”), the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament.

CCC 2585

One of the strengths of the Psalms is its variety of prayer and how a pslam can be found for nearly every occasion:

The Psalter’s many forms of prayer take shape both in the liturgy of the Temple and in the human heart. Whether hymns or prayers of lamentation or thanksgiving, whether individual or communal, whether royal chants, songs of pilgrimage or wisdom meditations, the Psalms are a mirror of God’s marvelous deeds in the history of his people, as well as reflections of the human experiences of the Psalmist. Though a given psalm may reflect an event of the past, it still possesses such direct simplicity that it can be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions.

CCC 2588

One of the key features of the Psalms is its constant “praise” of God, a primary lesson for all of us wanting to grow in prayer:

Certain constant characteristics appear throughout the Psalms: simplicity and spontaneity of prayer; the desire for God himself through and with all that is good in his creation; the distraught situation of the believer who, in his preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of his love and in submission to his will. The prayer of the psalms is always sustained by praise; that is why the title of this collection as handed down to us is so fitting: “The Praises.” Collected for the assembly’s worship, the Psalter both sounds the call to prayer and sings the response to that call: Hallelu-Yah! (“Alleluia”), “Praise the Lord!”

CCC 2589

The Psalms are an authentic school of prayer that we can all learn from. It is not surprising that the Church prays the Psalms on a daily basis in the Liturgy of the Hours, helping priests, religious and lay people grow in prayer.

If we want to learn how to pray, the Psalms are a great starting point.

BibleCCC PrayerPrayer
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