The Book of Psalms is the largest book in the Bible, both in terms of number of chapters and the length of the text. The Book of Psalms belong to the section of the Bible known as the Wisdom Books. They were written over a period of about 1000 years, from around 1400 BC to 400 BC.

The Psalms teach us: 1) What to pray 2) How to pray 3) About the Lord himself, and our relationship with him.

First, a list of the types of Psalms tells us much, (the categories with example Psalms): Thanksgiving (66), Penitential (51), Laments (137), Royal (21), Pilgrim (120-134), Curses (69:23-26), Wisdom (119), Messianic (110, 22-23-24), Praise (113-118, 135, 150).

Secondly the Psalms teach us how to pray, here are some examples;

  • How we are to hold our hands – Ps. 134:2 Lift Up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord
  • How we are to dress: Ps. 96:9 Worship the Lord in holy attire
  • How often we are to pray: Ps.119:164 Seven times a day I praise you.
  • How deep our love for the Lord needs to be, Ps. 63: For you my soul is thirsting
  • Even the Psalms themselves teach us to pray the Psalms, 47:7 For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!

The Psalms use a few literary techniques, the most prominent are: Allegory and Parallelism.

A few examples of allegory: To understand thirsting from Psalm 67, we need to understand the geography of Israel, It is surrounded by desert, and going into the desert without water and you will die in three days. The most famous Psalm 23, uses allegory to teach that The Lord is my Sheppard. Jesus continues with this allegory in the entire chapter 10 from the Gospel of John, where Jesus tells us “I am the good Sheppard”.  Parallelism is used extensively, an example from Ps. 144:1 blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle; Parallelism: hands for war, fingers for battle. Note: If something is repeated in the Bible, it is important.

The Psalms are timeless: “trains my hands for war”. We as Christians are under attack from the secular forces of the media, government, higher education and others. It seams that the last form of socially acceptable discrimination is against Christians, and especially Catholics. The Psalms prepare us for this spiritual battle.

So many of the Psalms are Messianic, they are a prophecy about Jesus. Depending on which Bible translation you use, it can be easy or difficult to see the references to the Lord (Jesus) as King. In the Revised Standard Version, 17 psalms refer to the Lord as “King”. Ps.145:1) I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Jesus also prayed a Psalm while on the cross: in Matthew 27:46, Jesus prays “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” This is the first verse of Psalm 22, which although it starts as a lament, 2/3’s of the way through, it changes into praise.

In conclusion: The Psalms give us a knowledge of the Lord, and of His great love for us. They teach us what to pray and how to pray. The Psalms have a way of drawing people deeper in love with the Lord, I encourage you to find one or two that you can add to your daily prayer life.