Catechesis 10: The prayer of the Psalms (part 1)

The Catechism affirms that every Psalm “possesses such direct simplicity that it can be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions” (CCC 2588). As we read and reread the Psalms, we learn the language of prayer. In short, the Psalms are the Word of God that we human beings use to speak with him.

The Psalms teach us how to praise God, how to thank and petition him; how to invoke him in joy and in suffering. They are invocations, often dramatic, that spring from men and women whose lives, like our own, are fraught with problems, hardships and uncertainties.

In the Psalms, these moments of suffering are transformed into a question. By constantly asking such questions, the Psalms teach us not to get used to pain, and remind us that life is not saved unless it is healed. The prayer of the Psalms asks God to intervene where all human efforts are in vain.

in the Psalter, pain becomes a relationship: a cry for help waiting for God’s listening ear, for all human suffering is sacred to God. In the Psalms, the believer finds an answer. Even if all human doors are barred, God’s door is open.

In prayer, not all our problems are solved, rather it is enough to know: “The Lord listens.” (Psalm 69:33) The Psalmist’s repeated cry, “How long, O Lord?”, is an acknowledgment that, amid our every trail and tribulation, God hears our voice and never abandons us.

Pope Francis invites us to meditate on the psalms as a guide to grow in the practice of prayer.

  • Psalm 13 – awareness of God’s grace and love sustaining us in times of trouble and need: “How long, O Lord?” “But I have trusted in your steadfast love.”
  • Psalm 56 – a lament and plea of one alone and in anguish, turning to the Lord with praise and trust: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
  • Psalm 69 – crying out in our need with humble and reverent adoration: “Deliver me… answer me… turn to me, O Lord, according to your abundant mercy.”

The psalms open our hearts to ever deeper hope in God’s providential care; they confirm our trust in his promises, and they inspire us to persevere on our life-long journey of faith in his word.

Read Pope Francis’ Catechesis on prayer 10. The prayer of the Psalms >>>