Thank God by praying the Psalms



Have you ever tried to describe the color yellow? Imagine talking to someone who has never had eyesight and he wants to know what yellow looks like. He’s never seen the sun, a flower or a finch. We can’t use those as descriptors because he has no knowledge of their appearance. We simply lack the language to make a blind man see yellow in his mind.

Thanking God for the joy, splendor and beauty of all that He has given us is similar. We try to describe our joy at receiving divine gifts using pathetically inadequate words.

The answer I have found is to pray the Psalms.

I have previously mentioned in this space that I pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, and the Psalms are an integral part of that. I have grown to love them for their poetic imagery, and their emotional and spiritual connections that help bring me closer to God in my prayer.

My favorite is Psalm 33. It is uplifting, and it is filled with gratitude and wonder at the splendor of God and creation.

I am especially drawn to one section of Psalm 33, which reads, “By His words the heavens were made, by the breath of His mouth the stars” (Ps 33:6-7). There are other translations of that sentence, but the translation from the LOTH is by far my favorite.

We pray that Psalm during Morning Prayer, or prime, on Tuesday of week one. As the LOTH has a cycle of four weeks, that means it pops up once during the cycle. I find myself looking forward to those mornings, knowing that I get to experience the glorious nature of God creating the heavens above and all the wonder at the beauty of His celestial realm.

On a trip to Arizona a few years ago, I photographed the Milky Way from a desert location at 2 o’clock in the morning. That photo accompanies this column. As I looked at the countless stars in the otherwise pitch-black night, I was overcome by the indescribable magnificence of His universe that He shares with us.

Matt Potter captured this image of the Milky Way Galaxy during a trip to Arizona.
Photo by Matt Potter

Each time I read Psalm 33, I envision God looking into the dark and lighting it up with his very breath because He loved us so much that He wanted us to have it. Looking into the heavens, I feel so very small and insignificant except for the fact that I know God placed those stars there as a gift to all humanity from the time he created Adam and Eve.

Wow. God’s love is infinite, and His generosity boundless and unending! How can we ever possibly find the words to thank him when we talk to him in prayer?

By praying the Psalms.

It is my belief, completely unfettered by any theological basis, that God gave us the Psalms to provide us with the words to give Him the praise and glory we so desire to give Him. Because of our weak nature as humans, we are unable to come up with the words that satisfy our need to praise God and to thank Him for all he gives to us. To fill that need, he inspired David, into whose line was born the Son of God the Father, to write – thousands of years ago – those eternal words and create the eternal images found in the Psalms. God did this not because He had to, but simply because He loves us.

Stewardship calls us to praise God and to thank Him for all He does for us. Describing yellow to a blind man is a far easier task than coming up with the words to thank God for all he has given us. When we pray the Psalms, however, that is exactly what we are doing.