Using Psalms for worship has been a practice of the church since the beginning. Listen to these words,

In what accents I addressed you, my God, when I read the Psalms of David, those faithful songs, the language of devotion which banishes the spirit of pride . . . How I addressed you in those Psalms! How my love for you was kindled by them! How I burned to recite them, were it possible, throughout the world, as an antidote for the pride of humanity . . . I trembled with fear, and then I became fervent with hope and rejoicing in your mercy, O Father. And these feelings issued forth by my eyes and voice . . .” (Augustine, Confessions, ix.4)

The holy, Christian people are known by prayer and public thanksgiving and praise to God. Where you see and hear that the Lord’s Prayer is prayed and the use of it is taught; were Psalms, or spiritual songs, are sung, in accordance with the Word of God and the right faith . . . there be sure that a holy Christian people is . . . (Luther, On the Councils and the Churches [from A Compend of Luthers Theology, ed. H. T. Kerr, Jr., Westminster Press, 1943, p. 132]).[1]

Psalms and You

Meditate on and Pray the Psalms

Right now you can “study, reflect on, conform to, and voice the Words”[2] found in the book of Psalms. It is appropriate and right to use these words in the season that we are in to cry out to God or praise Him. They provide both words for prayer and templates for how we can pray. We can structure our prayers similarly and use heartfelt language. We don’t need to worry about venting to God; the Psalms give us permission.

Read Them All for Balance

Also, the diversity of the Psalms will bring us balance. As we read through them, we are reminded of the various feelings and seasons that are associated with the Christian life. They give us a bigger perspective. They provide a way for both personal ventilation and a way out of the confines of our own experience.

Use the Psalms as a Prayer Tool

Don Whitney, in his book, Praying the Bible, talks about how the Psalms can be used for private prayer. It’s pretty simple. You simply work through a Psalm and pray it back to God. So you can read the first couple words or a line of Psalm 23, for example, and use that language to pray back to God. When you get stuck or can’t think of anything, you just move onto the next words or line.

Psalms and the Church

The Psalms were the hymnbook or songbook of the Old Testament. The Psalms were also used for much of Church History as the songs of worship. This is still true in some traditions. While I do not hold to a strict exclusive psalm view (meaning that only Psalms can be sung in worship), there are many ways that we can and do incorporate the Psalms in worship. I will cover a few below.


Psalms can be used for the opening and closing words for worship. The official words for these are the invocation and benediction. They serve to call the congregation to worship and send them out in peace or for service. The Psalms, either in part or whole, are great for this use.

Other Worship Elements

In addition to the start and end of the service, the Psalms can be beneficial in different ways. They can also be read between songs or during songs. They can be read or sung as words of confession or thanksgiving as a congregation. They can also be read in a call and response way. Another use is that worship services can be structured to follow the thematic flow of a Psalm.

Pastoral Practice

The Psalms are also precious for use for pastoral practice. I have used Psalms in hospital visits, visits to shut-ins, funerals, and many other occasions. But, this doesn’t mean that just pastors use them this way. They can be used by anyone who comes alongside another person to help or share truth. If you’re wondering what to say in a hard situation, sometimes the best is saying nothing at all. If you feel you need to say something, you can’t go wrong with the Word of God! A short Psalm or section of a Psalm might be just what someone needs.

How to Share Prayer Requests

The Psalms also serve as a prayer template. When it comes to personal prayer requests, they help us know what to share and how to share with others. While it is appropriate to share intimate details with close friends, this isn’t necessary when it comes to larger settings. The psalmists share details in a way that guards confidentiality and maintains brevity.

Using Whole or Part Creatively

To sum up some of these points, we could say that Christians can use the whole or part of psalms creatively together. We should guard the intent of the original, but we are free to use pieces. This is done throughout the book of Revelation, for example. Incorporating rich devotional language into public worship is a terrific thing!

Psalms Point to Jesus

The Psalms formed and shaped Old Testament saints, and they form and shape us as Christians. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all devotional approach. Instead, we can use them in varied ways and reflect on what they are teaching us. They ultimately point to Jesus, who perfectly worshipped in our place and continually prays for us. When you are tired and weary, rest in the perfect God-man the Psalms point towards – He is our only hope in life and death.


[1] Both quotes have been pulled from John W. Hilber, Class Notes: Psalms in Spiritual Formation and Worship, BBL-523/J-Term 2020, 1.

[2] Hilber, Class Notes, 2.