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The Psalms are a collection of prayers and songs that were primarily written by King David (or, in the very least, are attributed to him). While other books of scripture seem to lay down instruction, sermons, and stories that hold instruction, the Psalms inspire with intense emotions and beautiful writing. Though prayers and songs can be instructive just like any other passage of scripture, there are still a few differences between the Psalms and other books. I have found that the main difference surrounds the audience, or who the scripture is directed towards. The verses we often read in the scriptures are directed towards us as a lesson. A large majority of the Psalms are directed towards God.
Though the Psalms have different purposes than other scriptures, they do have some characteristics in common. Psalms can be inspired of the Lord just like regular, instructive verses can be. Even though we’re speaking to Him (in comparison to speaking about Him), the Lord can still help us know what to say. The effects can also be similar. Just like a good lesson can teach us about the Lord, a good prayer or song can help us understand Him better as well.
So the words of these different kinds of scriptures can be guided and inspired and informative and inspirational. The real difference comes in the audience.
Today I want to talk about how the Psalms can become a part of who we are. I want to tell you how “writing” Psalms can completely change your individual days and your life. I also want to emphasize that you don’t have to be a writer in order to bring about these effects.
There have been times in my life where I have given prayers that are similar to King David’s prayers. I’ve found myself asking for mercy or strength or knowledge, to be saved from enemies, etc. If I’m being totally honest, I feel like those are my best prayers where I feel closest to God. My prayers feel guided, and they start to mimic these overarching themes of life rather than my day to day comings and goings. When I’m really feeling the Spirit, my prayers start to mimic the Psalms.
It’s hard to describe how powerful it can feel to “write” a Psalm. I feel like the only way to really emphasize how much it’s helped me in my life is to tell you about a personal experience.
I often type out my prayers. It helps me stay on task in comparison to thinking about preschool registration deadlines and cooking dinner. Since moving across the country, my prayers have all taken on a bit of pleading. We have no idea what our life is going to look like in a month, let alone six months. Our life has been a tad tumultuous as we’ve tried to get our bearings and figure out what we want to do long-term. I have found myself pleading with the Lord over and over for guidance and help.
A week ago, I felt inspired to change up my prayers. The Lord appreciated my being specific, but He wanted me to do my prayers differently for a little bit. He wanted me to write out statements of belief in regards to the things I was asking for. I didn’t know it then, but the Lord was teaching me the power of Psalms.
Let me give an example.
Instead of saying, “Lord, I’m scared and I don’t even know what the next step is. Please help me know what the next step is,” I found myself saying, “Lord, I know that I don’t have to be scared because You have told me that you have a plan. I know that You have perfect timing, and I know that You will help me recognize the next step at the right time.”
Instead of saying, “Lord, the world is really scary, and we had to leave behind all of our security in Utah when we moved out here,” I found myself saying, “Lord, I know that You are capable of providing for my family. I also know that You know how hard I’ve tried to help my family be self-sufficient, and I know that You have promised blessings to those who try. I know that You are aware of my diligent efforts to prepare my family, and that’s enough for You.”
And just like that, a lot of the anxiety I was feeling disappeared.
Prayers were meant to be more than asking for what we need. Prayers were meant to change us; that was the actual purpose of prayer. The Lord knew I needed to change my prayers in order to change the trajectory of my attitude. Instead of asking for specific things, I started to bear my testimony about the Lord to the Lord, and everything has changed. I am reminded constantly of how He is aware, of how I don’t need to fearfully plead with Him to help us.
As I opened the scriptures to study for this week’s Come Follow Me, I was struck by how similar my prayers had been to the Psalms.
I’ve learned that creating Psalms can be life-changing. They don’t have to be written down, elaborate, or beautifully spoken in order to be heard and appreciated by the Lord. They simply need to be heartfelt. In fact, that’s pretty much the most important part. Hebrew poetry (Psalms) was not about rhythm or rhyme; it was all about how deeply you could express your emotions. You may not be a writer, but that doesn’t have to stop you from saying what you feel and believe to the Lord.
If the idea of “writing” Psalms still seems daunting, I want to give you a quick tip. Scriptures can very easily be converted into Psalms.
Let me give an example.
Mosiah 4:27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
Psalm version: Father, help us to do these things in wisdom and order for we know that Thou dost not require us to run faster than we have strength. We know that diligence is how we may win the prize, and we pray for help to do all things in order.
Matthew 6:26-27, 31-33
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 …For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Psalm version: Heavenly Father, I know that You are in charge. I know that You take care of the creatures of the earth, and I know how much I matter to You. I know that if I truly think about it, I can’t really change anything. There will always be scenario that I will be unprepared for even if I try really hard. I know that You are aware of my family and me, and I know that if I do my best to seek You, everything we need will come.
If you’re finding yourself in a difficult situation, I can assure you that there is no new struggle. Even if your specific details may be a tad different, there is someone who has felt your similar fears. It is also highly likely that someone has written about it in the scriptures.
I wish I could describe the depth to which this changed my perspective. I wish I could place the feelings I felt into your mind so you could see how beneficial they are, but I can’t. I wish I could show you how the Lord reminded me of how powerful He is, how much He loves me, and how willing He is to make my life something beautiful. He was able to do that because He showed me how to “write” a Psalm in my prayer.
There was a time in my life when I thought the Psalms were boring and repetitive. A lot of the verses hold similar themes and phrases. I know better now. Now, I see people who had very real and very specific problems that were solved by the simple truths of the gospel. Now, I see people who found hope in the midst of war when they were surrounded by enemies on all sides. Now, I see myself. Just as these prayers have changed me, I know that the Psalms changed them.
I’m grateful for a Savior who is merciful, all-powerful, Omnipotent, and on my side. I’m grateful that He asked me to change my prayers so I could change my life.