On The Use of The Psalms In Prayer

“Penetrated by the same feelings in which the psalm was composed, it is as if we became the authors of it and we run ahead of its thought rather than follow it. We grasp the meaning before reading the words. The sacred words reawaken our experience reminding us of the assaults we have undergone and still undergo every day, of the marks of our negligence or, on the contrary, of our fervour, blessings of divine visitation or wiles of the enemy, the havoc wrought by the forgetfulness that is so ready to creep into our soul, our frailty… and our blindness. All these feelings we find expressed in the psalms. They are the bright mirror in which we become more deeply conscious of what is happening to us. We are made sensitive by our own experience. It is no longer a question of what we have merely heard. We are in touch with the reality. We understanding it completely. It is no longer simply entrusted to our memory; we give birth to it in the depth of our heart as an intuition that forms part of our being. Reading throws light on experience.” St. John Cassian Conferences, X,II.

Thus we praying using the psalms not because we can’t invent ‘better’ words of prayer but because the psalms express the very depths of the human heart. Composed under the inspiration of the Spirit, the Psalms express archetypal truths about humanity in every age. Truths, hurdles, struggles, burdens, contrition, shame, guilt, zeal etc that we all continue to experience and live within, even today. For this reason the Church has continued to lay hold of the psalms to reveal to us the depths of our hearts in and through prayer.

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