By Reverend Thomas K. Murphy, O.F.M.
Always among the first things for the People of God is a sincere prayer life. The increasingly secular environment in which we live adversely affects the very idea of prayer. Statistics for the Catholic Church in Michigan from the years 2000 to 2018 reveal about a 50% decline in infant baptisms and Catholic weddings. While these statistics are bad, what they portend for the future is much worse.
What can we do to counteract what has been happening? One thing is that believers could strengthen their personal prayer lives.
Divine revelation has given us two helpful models of prayer. The Hebrew Bible holds before us the Book of Psalms. Later revelation has left us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ own instruction on prayer.
About fifty years ago Biblical scholars helped our understanding of the 150 Psalms by grouping them into a few different categories. A good example can be found in the book, The Psalms, published in 1974 by Leopold Sabourin, S.J. Categories of the Psalms include Confidence Psalms, Hymns of Praise and Thanksgiving, Royal Psalms, Wisdom Psalms, Penitential Psalms and Laments.
Quite amazingly these several different Psalm categories can be easily matched with the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer and with the days of the week:
Our Father . . . 12 Confidence Psalms Sunday
Hallowed Be Thy Name 35 Hymns of Praise and Thanksgiving Psalms Monday
Thy Kingdom Come 23 Royal Psalms Tuesday
Thy Will Be Done . . . 22 Wisdom Psalms Wednesday
Give Us This Day . . . 10 Supplication Psalms (from the Laments) Thursday
Forgive Us . . . 10 Penitential Psalms Friday
. . . Deliver Us . . . 38 Deliverance Psalms (rest of the Laments) Saturday
In effect Jesus has summarized the main ideas of the whole Book of Psalms into several phrases. Each of these divine models of prayer can enrich the appreciation of the other. The rich poetic grandeur of the Psalms is brought into sharp focus by the profound simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer. The concise expressions of the Lord’s Prayer can be expanded and developed by the abundance of images found in the Psalms. This cross-pollination of the two best scriptural strains of prayer in our traditions holds the promise of a new “hybrid vigor” in our personal prayer lives.