Types of Psalms Categorized According to the Petitions of the Lord’s Prayer

Luther wrote that Jesus Himself had given us both the Psalms and The Lord’s Prayer in order to teach us how to pray:  “Our dear Lord, who has given to us and taught us to pray the Psalter and The Lord’s Prayer, grants to us also the spirit of prayer and of grace so that we pray with enthusiasm and earnest faith, properly and without ceasing, for we need to do this; he has asked for it and therefore wants to have it from us.  To him be praise, honor, and thanksgiving.  Amen.” (p. 63 of Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible)

In fact, Luther said of the Psalter, “It is interwoven with the Our Father in such a way that we can understand each through the other very well and see their happy harmony.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer went on to say that Jesus had not only given us both The Lord’s Prayer and the Psalter in order to teach us how to pray, but also that the Psalms could be categorized according to the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer:   “It would not be difficult to arrange [the psalms] according to the Lord’s Prayer and to show how the Psalter is totally absorbed in the prayer of Jesus.” (ibid, p. 27)

Although Bonhoeffer himself arranged the subjects dealt with in the Psalter into the categories of: the creation; the law; holy history; the Messiah; the church; life; suffering; guilt; enemies; and the end (for a variety of reasons) others have followed Bonhoeffer’s lead and actually categorized the Psalms according to the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. The following categorization was done by Bill Gaultiere:

Types of Psalms categorized according to Petitions of The Lord’s Prayer

To help you learn this way of praying [Bill Gaultiere has] included some beloved psalms that fit into each category. These psalms form a “School of Prayer,” teaching us the fundamental ways that the Psalmist and Jesus prayed. By praying the Psalms in this way we learn the Biblical language of prayer.

  1. Thanksgiving & Praise (“Our Father… hallowed by thy name”)
  • Psalm 57: God is glorious and loving — exalt him with a steadfast heart!
  • Psalm 92: Pray and play on the Sabbath
  • Psalm 95: To worship is to thank, praise, revere, listen, and obey God
  • Psalm 100: Thanksgiving leads to praise
  • Psalm 107: Give thanks in consolations and desolations
  • Psalm 136: Give thanks – the Lord is good and his love endures forever
  • Psalm 103-107, 111-118, 134-139, 145-150: Hallelujah Psalms
  1. Submission to God / Wisdom (“Thy kingdom come…”)
  • Psalm 1: Live in the way of the righteous by delighting in God’s Law
  • Psalms 4 & 5: Learn the rhythm of evening and morning prayer
  • Psalm 8: Worship your Creator and discover your belovedness as his creation
  • Psalm 19: Listen to God in the wonders of nature and Word
  • Psalm 119: Delight in God’s Law
  • Psalm 131: Practice simplicity and silence (Psalms 120-134 = “Pilgrim Psalms”)
  • Psalm 133: Practice spiritual friendship
  • Psalm 139: Examine yourself in God’s light
  1. Petition: Comfort and Encouragement (“Give us this day…”)
  • Psalm 4: In distress you can be filled with God’s love, joy, peace
  • Psalm 16: Delight in God via saints, circumstances, and path of life
  • Psalm 23: Grow with Good Shepherd through the soul seasons
  • Psalm 91: In danger find refuge in God as a chic with Mother Bird
  • Psalm 121: Trust in God’s protection and care on your (or another’s)  journey
  1. Petition: Longing for God (“Give us this day…”)
  • Psalm 27: Seek the Lord as your “One Thing” – even in trials
  • Psalm 42: In troubles thirst deeply for the Living God
  • Psalm 63: Hunger for God with all your soul
  • Psalm 73: Make God the strength of your heart and your portion forever
  • Psalm 84: Yearn for the lovely courts of the Lord and invite others inside
  1. Confession of Sin (“Forgive us…”)
  • Psalm 32: Confess your sins and be blessed
  • Psalm 38: In guilt and pain cry out for your Savior’s help and answers
  • Psalm 51: Confess your sin against God and be purified and restored
  • Psalm 130: Wait for God’s forgiveness like a watchman waits for morning.
  • Note: there are 7 Repentance Psalms that Luther calls “the Pauline Psalms: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
  1. Confession: Anger at Enemies (“Forgive us…”)
  • Psalm 35: When mistreated let the Lord be the one to fight for you
  • Psalm 59: When slandered with lies trust the Lord as your defender
  • Psalm 69: When being hated sinks you in mire express anger to God
  • Psalm 70: When people seek to harm you cry out to God
  • Psalm 109: When betrayed vent anger to God and rely on his love
  1. Temptation: Laments of grief or complaints (“Lead us not into temptation…”)
  • Psalm 3: The model lament: crying out to the Lord and putting confidence in him
  • Psalm 6: Pour out your tears and questions to God
  • Psalm 31: In distress put your trust in God’s presence
  • Psalm 64: When verbally attacked hide in God and rely on his justice
  • Psalm 73: Praise and trut God even as wicked prosper and righteous suffer
  • Psalm 102: In depression cry out to God and recall his power and care
  • Psalm 142: Cry and complain to God and find that he’s your portion
  • Psalm 143: In troubles thirst for God’s unfailing love and will
  1. Temptation: Dark Night of the Soul; Laments and complaints that God feels distant (“Lead us not into temptation…”)
  • Psalm 13: When God’s face is hidden learn to trust him in your heart
  • Psalm 22: When it seems God has rejected you praise him anyway
  • Psalm 77: When you don’t feel God’s love meditate on his goodness
  • Psalm 88: When you’re in a dark pit and God seems angry cry out to him

The Ending of the Lord’s Prayer:

The ending of the Lord’s Prayer was added later and summarizes Jesus’ model prayer: “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This doxology becomes a short prayer that covers everything when you change the prepositions like this: “Dear Lord, I seek to live in your kingdom, by your power, and for your glory.  It’s like condensing the 150 Psalms into 16 words.

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