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Not Sure What To Pray? Try a Psalm

Every time I take up this remarkable psalm, I find there’s a lot to ponder and a lot to guide me in my own prayers…

Prayer blogger Rick Hamlin

“I’m not sure what I should pray,” I hear people say, or “I worry about praying too much about myself,” or “I feel like I repeat myself too much in prayer.”

Ever feel the same? Try looking at a psalm. Let me pick Psalm 55, one I’ve been praying over for the last few weeks. I keep thinking I’ll move on to another psalm, but every morning when I take up a verse or two of this remarkable psalm, I find there’s a lot to ponder and a lot to guide me in my own prayers.

Like many of the psalms, it runs the gamut of emotions. The psalmist is angry and says as much, going so far as to seek vengeance for some terrible wrong committed by unnamed evildoers: “Let death come upon them suddenly; let them go down alive into the grave…” (verse 16). Not very pretty; certainly doesn’t sound very holy. But it’s honest. And that’s what our prayers should be. Honest. So if you’re terrifically angry with someone or a situation, go ahead and pray it. Say the worst thing that’s flown through your head. God knows the thought anyway. Let it all out in prayer.

This psalm is also about betrayal. Ever been betrayed by a friend? I hope not. But if so, you know how heartbreakingly painful it is. “For had it been an adversary who taunted me, then I could have borne it,” the psalmist says, “but it was you, a man after my own heart, my companion, my own familiar friend” (verses 13-14). Often it’s during the most painful times of our lives that we turn to prayer. With good reason.

Maybe things are so bad you wish you could get away from it all. You need an escape. Pray that too. Don’t just tough it out or keep a stiff upper lip. One of the most poignant lines in this psalm expresses the yearning to escape: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (verse 7).

And then remind yourself that God listens to us in prayer. Say it over and over again. Put it in as many ways as come to you. Be redundant. Remind yourself of this important truth, even if you have to repeat it to believe it: “Hear my prayer, O God… Listen to me and answer me… But I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me… He will bring me safely back from the battle… God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me…” (verses 1, 2, 17, 19, 20).

Prayer like this—honest, angry, grieving, begging, petitioning—is the way people pray and have prayed for thousands of years. It’s biblical.

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