A Prayer for ALL Times: A Reflection on the Psalms
By: Mary Benz
I have recently spent a great deal of time in prayer begging God to help me listen and understand what he is saying but still feeling confused and left without answers. If I’m being honest, this has caused me to feel somewhat discouraged, thinking that I will just never be able to actually hear what he has to say to me and figure out what he is asking me to do. During times like this throughout my spiritual life, I have struggled to trust that the Lord knows my heart better than I do and that he indeed will speak to me in his own time and in his own way, even when I don’t know what to say.
This time of confusion has made me so grateful for the wondrous gift of the Psalms. Even when we don’t know what to pray, they are a deep reservoir of prayers from which we can draw during all seasons and stages of life. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Psalms “provide us with models to follow” and “inspire us to voice our own deepest feelings and aspirations”.
The Psalms follow several different patterns. There are songs of praise and thanksgiving, such as Psalm 100 which declares, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord...come into his presence with singing!” and Psalm 30 which proclaims, “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.” The majority of the Psalms, though, are actually Psalms of lament, such as Psalm 22 which cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”. This is the prayer that Jesus himself prayed to his Father from the Cross as he hung in agony. There are also historical Psalms, Psalms praising the Law of God, Psalms concerning the kings of Israel, and others.
How incredible! I can find genuine, beautifully crafted prayers to God that can echo the stirrings in my own soul, whether I am brimming with joy and rejoicing or feeling utterly downtrodden and defeated. God has given us this “school of prayer” in the Psalms where we can learn how to pray to him no matter where we are in life.
By praying with the Psalms, I have learned that it is actually a good thing to cry out to God about the trials and suffering that weigh on my heart. The Psalms oftentimes echo the deepest aches within us and show us how to respond to them with trust and confidence in the Lord. The Psalms are so human in this way- they recognize the sufferings that are inevitable in the human experience, but rather than turning to despair or hopelessness, they teach us to turn to trust and radical surrender to the will of our loving God and Savior.
Psalm 13 is a beautiful example of this. It begins with a cry for God’s guidance and help as it says, “How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? Consider and answer me, O Lord, my God.” It acknowledges authentic human suffering, but then models a response of trust when it says, “But I have trusted in thy steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.”
Let us follow the example of the Psalms, my sisters in Christ, and bring our hearts to God in every season of our lives. May our lives echo the Psalms and forever proclaim, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)
Mary is a student at the University of Notre Dame but from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is studying Theology and Pre-Med and hopes to become a pro-life doctor one day! She is the 3rd of 8 kids and is passionate about her big family, friends, and being love! In her free time, Mary loves to read, run outside, listen to podcasts, and hang out with her siblings.