My primary (and very limited) experience with praying the Psalms communally is with the Trappist monks at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky.
They pray the Psalms seven times a day, and cover the entire Psalter every two weeks. So you can imagine that the words and sentiments of the Psalms have become part of the very fiber of their being.
Here’s what Brother Merton of Gethsemani said about how laypersons can join the monks in praying the Psalms.
In praying the Psalms, we make them “encompass the full round of the day and sanctify it.” Uniting ourselves with Christ in His praying Church, we dedicate ourselves and all our actions to God in and through Him. For this, it is not necessary to take part in the public and official prayer of the Church. Used as private prayer, the Psalms unite us to the praying Church though in a less formal and official manner, because the Psalms are always the Church’s prayer. Together with the Our Father, which Jesus Himself gave us, the Psalms are in the most perfect sense the “prayer of Christ.” They not only contain the ancient promises which Christ Himself came to fulfill, but they show forth everywhere the glory of Jesus, His supreme and eternal power as King and Priest. Above all they show Him to us triumphant over death and over His enemies, who are also our own, and they promise us that He will return in triumph. As we recite the Psalms, His mysteries are actualized by grace in our own hearts and we participate in them with the whole Church. Therefore even in our private prayer Christ and the Church pray in us when we pray with the Holy Spirit. Nowhere can we be more certain that we are praying with the Holy Spirit than when we pray the Psalms.
• Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms
Today, I’d like to share with you a personal reflection on the Psalms by one of the monks at Gethsemani. I found this brief interview with Brother Paul, in which he shares some thoughts on living a life built around praying the Psalms. This video was produced by Music Serving the Word Ministries.
I hope it will give us all some food for thought…and prayer.