So how can I pray the Psalms?

Praying “The Lord is my Shepherd and I am his little lamb.”

In church the grownups have been hearing messages about praying the Psalms, because the people who wrote them talk about all the feelings we can feel–happiness, anger, sadness, frustration, relief, confusion. But how we can pray the Psalms?

When I pray the Psalms, I like to choose short parts that are just 1-3 verses long, so that’s what we’re going to do here. You can choose to do all the ways I talk about in your head, but if you want to follow along, you should gather these things:

  • three pieces of paper
  • something to write/draw with (can do one color or many colors)
  • cup of water

Also, you should sit in a place that can get wet–and be sure to keep your computer/tablet/phone in a place that can’t get wet.

Okay, let’s get praying.

Ways to pray any Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd, and I am his little lamb.

Psalm 23:1, Jesus Storybook Bible

There are five ways we can pray any Psalm. While we go through them with the beginning of Psalm 23, draw or write on the first page. I drew a shepherd, a lamb, blah.

  1. Repeat the verses at least 4 times. Slowly. And just enjoy them in God’s presence.
  2. Ask God to show you something about the passage. How are you my shepherd? How am I like a little lamb? Show me. Help me understand.
  3. Thank God for what the verses talk about. Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for knowing me and what I need.
  4. Ask God to do more or give more of what the verses talk about for yourself. God, I’m feeling sad. Please carry me on your shoulders like I’m a little lamb and help me feel better.
  5. Ask God to do more or give more of what the verses talk about for others. God, please take care of [my friend/loved one]. Let her know how much you love her. I hope he feels how much you love him.

Praying a sad Psalm

The verse we used was a very sweet one. Is it different to pray verses about sadness?

Save me, O God,
    for the floodwaters are up to my neck.
Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire;
    I can’t find a foothold.
I am in deep water,
    and the floods overwhelm me.
I am exhausted from crying for help.

Psalm 6:1-3, NLT

You can still use any of the 5 ways, but it can be harder when the Psalm talks about big emotions that we may or may not be feeling at the time. Take your second piece of paper and write or draw things that the verses make you think of, or draw or write about the people you’re praying about.

6. When you feel this way: God, I feel this way. I am feeling like things are really, really, really hard right now. I’m having a hard time dealing with it. This is what’s going on: ______________________________. Help me.

7. When you do not feel this way: God, please be with people who feel this way, with people who are very sad or very frustrated. This is what’s going on with my loved one: _______________________________. Help them.

Praying Psalm 6:1-3

Praying a violent Psalm

Some Psalms can feel awkward when we go to pray them.

Break off their fangs, O God!
    Smash the jaws of these lions, O Lord!
May they disappear like water into thirsty ground.
    Make their weapons useless in their hands /
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
May they be like snails that dissolve into slime.

Psalm 58:6-8, NLT & NIV

The Psalmist asks God to do this to their enemies, to evil people. Draw or write on your third piece of paper while we learn how to pray these kinds of Psalms.

I have to admit that I used to have a hard time reading these kinds of verses, and praying them felt wrong because I try to avoid saying or thinking mean things. It’s also true that my life is not in physical danger–no armies are coming after me, I don’t have people plotting against me. So these Psalms feel weird.

But there are kids who live in places where their government is a danger to them, where groups of criminals are dangerous to them. Some kids even have families that hurt them. That helps us know how to pray these kinds of verses. Learn about kids who are, right now, in danger; have your grownup help you so you can pray more specifically.

6. When you feel this way: God, I am feeling scared and angry. Protect me from these people who are trying to hurt me. I need you.

7. When you do not feel this way: God, please be with the kids and grownups who are in danger. It is hard to know that kids like me are in danger. Please keep them safe.

8. In your imagination, swap the idea of enemies-as-people for enemies-as-diseases. God, cancer and COVID-19 [or whatever disease a loved one might be suffering from] is like enemies in their body. Break off the fangs of their disease. May the virus in their body disappear like water soaking into the ground. Make it useless in their body. Heal them.

Praying Psalm 58:6-8

Wreck This Journal

Now that we’ve created these three pages, we’re going to be inspired by the book, Wreck This Journal, and deal with these pages in ways that remind us of spiritual ideas.

Bring the Light

Jesus is called the Light of the World in the Bible. Take the violent Psalm page and bring some light to it by poking it full of holes with your writing instrument.

The Lord’s Supper

We eat bread and drink juice to remind us that Jesus loved us enough to die for us. Treat the sad Psalm page like bread and eat it. Okay, just chew on it and spit it out.

Living Water

The Bible talks about Jesus giving us living water that satisfies more than our physical thirst. Take the little lamb page, make it into a cup, pour some water in it, and try to drink out of it. Don’t spill on your electronics!

__________________________________________________

I hope you had fun and that you feel inspired to pray any Psalm!

The video of this lesson is below 🙂

Don’t Pin the Xbox on God

An image of the person holding an xbox one controller.
An image of hand holding an Xbox controller

So instead of inviting general prayer items in children’s worship with, “Does anyone have anything they want to talk to God about?,” I’ve been getting more specific, both as a way of teaching the kinds of things we can do in our prayers, and of getting beyond the first things that come to kids’ minds.

  • What do you know about God that you think is awesome?
  • What do you want to ask God about?
  • What are you sorry about doing or not doing or saying or not saying or thinking? (I let them answer in their minds.)
  • What do you want to say THANK YOU to God about?
  • Is there anybody you know who needs help?

Yes, we’ve still spent a lot time praying about kitties, and thanking God for them, and celebrating God’s creativity in making kitties. But we’ve also asked God just how he made things out of nothing. And some kids who are always jokey and rarely chime in with a prayer item have responded to the last question with some heartfelt requests that showed that, no matter how they might talk, they love their younger siblings.

But last Sunday things went off the rails.

Miss Natalie: “What do you know about God that you think is awesome?”

Child: “That God made the whole world and the Xbox.”

Miss Natalie: “I’m with you on the whole world thing, but God is not responsible for the Xbox. People made that. God made people to have creative and intelligent and curious minds so they were able to come up with the Xbox, but I don’t believe the Xbox was divinely inspired in the same way that the Bible was divinely inspired. You can’t pin the Xbox on God.”

And they were OFF.

Five kids between 4th and 6th grade tried to come up with arguments that would prove that God was responsible for one of the things they love most in the world. They tried to come it with God’s all-knowingness–“If God knows everything, then he knew that the Xbox would be invented, therefore God created it.” They tried that argument again, but louder.

I tried to come at them with an analogy: If your teacher tells you to make a clay pot and you make the clay pot, your teacher knew that you were going to make the clay pot, but you’re the one who still made it, not your teacher (or it might have been, “Your parents made you, you make a clay pot, you’re responsible for the pot, not your parents,” frankly it was so loud that I forgot what exactly my clay pot-related analogy was). They responded but the teacher/parents still knew….

When they started challenging me about what we really meant by the word “make,” I knew that the debate had essentially come to an end and they were prolonging it because it was fun. It was fun. I don’t know what the children’s worship room across the hall thought we were doing; I felt a little bad because the leader of that room always creates a calm environment, and here we were having a debate so raucous that kids were getting up and pacing.

I don’t know that I won, but I held my ground. God is not directly responsible for the Xbox. So when it came time to pray, I thanked God for creating people with such creativity, curiosity, and intelligence that they came up with the Xbox, but also thanked God that those same things lead us to debates about what God did and didn’t do, and then I had to thank God that we could laugh during prayers (because we were all laughing).

Did the kids learn anything valuable through that exchange? No idea. But I hope they took away that I will listen to them, and take them seriously, and that we can always laugh about things, and God loves us through it all. They also learned that I can be side-tracked–but they already knew that.

So, my fellow people who minister to and with children, what are some of the debates you’ve gotten into? I can’t be the only one fielding comments like that!