Psalms are poetic and often deeply emotional expressions of worship, praise, thanksgiving, and lament. I use to think that my prayers should be neat and tidy, I would come to God really politely.

Then, I read something about how God responded to Israel's cries. Exodus 3:7-8 says, "Adonai said, “I have seen how my people are being oppressed in Egypt and heard their cry for release from their slavemasters, because I know their pain. I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that country to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the place of the Kena‘ani, Hitti, Emori, P’rizi, Hivi and Y’vusi."

So, I started praying more frequently. I stopped "hiding" (air quotes because... c'mon, you can't hide your real emotions from God). I embraced the idea of lamenting, or crying out to God.

Someone who was really good at being honest with God? David. (This makes me laugh because my husband's name is David and he is also... very honest. Super in tune with his emotions and a passionate pray-er... one who prays? What's the noun for one who prays?) Well, we have a whole host of examples of prayers in the Psalms!

While there isn't a fixed formula for modeling prayers after Psalms, you can definitely find inspiration from various elements we find commonly present in many of the Psalms.

Let's use Psalm 34 as a model for a prayer guide. This psalm is a beautiful expression of praise, trust, and reliance on God. Here's how you might structure a prayer based on Psalm 34:

Psalm 34

(from the Complete Jewish Bible translation)

By David, when he pretended to be insane before Avimelekh, who then drove him away; so he left:

I will bless Adonai at all times;
his praise will always be in my mouth.
When I boast, it will be about Adonai;
the humble will hear of it and be glad.

Proclaim with me the greatness of Adonai;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought Adonai, and he answered me;
he rescued me from everything I feared.

They looked to him and grew radiant;
their faces will never blush for shame.
This poor man cried; Adonai heard
and saved him from all his troubles.
The angel of Adonai, who encamps
around those who fear him, delivers them.

Taste, and see that Adonai is good.
How blessed are those who take refuge in him!
Fear Adonai, you holy ones of his,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
Young lions can be needy, they can go hungry,
but those who seek Adonai lack nothing good.

Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of Adonai.
Which of you takes pleasure in living?
Who wants a long life to see good things?
[If you do,] keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from deceiving talk;
turn from evil, and do good;
seek peace, go after it!

The eyes of Adonai watch over the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
But the face of Adonai opposes those who do evil,
to cut off all memory of them from the earth.

[The righteous] cried out, and Adonai heard,
and he saved them from all their troubles.
Adonai is near those with broken hearts;
he saves those whose spirit is crushed.
The righteous person suffers many evils,
but Adonai rescues him out of them all.
He protects all his bones;
not one of them gets broken.

Evil will kill the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
But Adonai redeems his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

  • Address God and glorify Him
    "Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, who gives me the Scriptures to draw near to You and delight in Your commandments. (I am adding this preface to my prayers because it focuses my mind on who God is and His power over His creation.) God, I come before You with a heart full of gratitude and awe. Just as David proclaimed in Psalm 34, I want to praise You continually and proclaim Your greatness."
  • Expression of Emotion and Lament
    "Lord, you know the depths of my heart and the emotions I carry. In the midst of life's challenges, uncertainties, and joys, I pour out my feelings (insert your emotions here) before you. I acknowledge that you are the God who cares about every detail of my life."
  • Confession and Repentance
    "Search my heart, God. If there are any areas where I have fallen short, I humbly confess them to you. (I get usually get pretty detailed here.) Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
  • Petition and Request
    "Lord, I bring my requests before you. (Insert your prayer requests here.) I seek you in times of trouble. Grant me your wisdom, guidance, and protection. Be near to me as I navigate the challenges of life."
  • Thanksgiving:
    "God you are Adonai El Roi, my God who sees. Thank you for your faithfulness and provision in all things. I want to magnify your name and exalt your goodness the way David does in his psalms. Thank you for the blessings you've bestowed upon me and my family and for being a refuge in times of need."
  • Reflection on God's Word and Deeds
    "God, thank You for the Bible. Thank You for Your commandments and the freedom to read and study Your Scrptures. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I reflect on your promises and the ways you have worked in the lives of those who trust in you. You alone bring me comfort and rest."
  • Trust and Confidence
    "I declare my trust in you, Lord. I seek refuge in you and trust that whatever Your will is, it has purpose and power to glorify You. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you and find peace in your presence, regardless of my circumstances."
  • Praise and Adoration
    "Father God, You are worthy of all praise! All of creation reflects Your Spirit and Your creation. You continue to love me and pursue me and I love You for it. Thank you for your example of grace and love."
  • Commitment and Surrender
    "I surrender my plans, dreams, and fears to you, Lord. Like David asks for in Psalm 34, I desire to seek peace and pursue it. Help me to live a life that reflects a perfect peace that surpasses all understanding."
  • Acknowledge Jesus as mediator
    "God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. Thank you for Your compassion, for your patience, and for Your foresight in the need for redemption. Your mercy makes no sense to me and I am so grateful for it. I pray all these things in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen."

My husband tells me all the time, prayer is just talking to God, a simple conversation. At first, I couldn't just do that. God was God, and I am a puny human. It was like I wanted to offer him something... a beautifully crafted poem, a super eloquent speech... and... He doesn't need that. He's God!

So, when I started to... drop the act and stopped trying to act like I needed to prove to God that I had it all together... my prayer life changed. It was more honest.

Remember, the key is authenticity. The Psalms are prayers that are deeply personal and sincere, filled with emotion. I hope that you can adapt these elements to your own words and experiences, allowing your prayer to reflect your unique relationship with God.

Do you have a prayer request? I'd love for you to share them with me so that I can partner in prayer with you.