Praying the 23rd Psalm
By Dave Butts
Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the most recognizable and greatly loved passages in the Bible. Many Christians can quote all or most of this psalm. It is so familiar that perhaps it has lost its power in our lives. If we’re not careful we can view it through an emotional haze and fail to grasp the power inherent in this short passage.
The Lord has brought me back to the 23rd Psalm again and again to revitalize my walk with Him. Certainly, just reading this passage carefully and devotionally can be of great value, but learning to pray this psalm has begun to transform my life. Let me show you how I am using Psalm 23 to open myself to all the Lord has for me:
First, I begin by asking the Lord to teach me something more about who He is as I read. Next, I simply read the psalm:
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Simply meditating on these few verses will begin to renew your relationship with your Shepherd. There is, however, another step to take in unpacking this psalm. Pray the psalm back to God. Praying Scripture is certainly not a new thing. Christians have been doing this for centuries. But Psalm 23 is one of the easiest and richest passages to bring before the Lord in prayer. Very little has to be changed in wording this section of the Bible as a prayer. Here is how I often pray: "Because You are my shepherd, I will never be wanting. You make me lie down in green pastures, You lead me beside quiet waters, You restore my soul. You guide me in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in Your house forever."
I have prayed Psalm 23 this way for many years, and each time it seems like I see something fresh and new. The Lord is so far beyond me, and His character and attributes are so amazing, that each time I pray to my Shepherd I discover more of who He is.
In addition to helping me understand more of who God is, as I pray I also discover more of who I am in relation to Him. Like a sheep, I must stay close to my Shepherd if I am to grow and prosper. The 23rd Psalm is a wonderful expression of my need to depend upon God for every aspect of my life.
As marvelous as praying the psalm has been, recently a whole new experience has opened up for me regarding this passage of Scripture. One night, as I was lying in bed and praying Psalm 23, I began to sense the Lord stirring within me. In that still small voice that He uses with us, it seemed to me that the Lord wanted to speak the psalm over me. I, of course, invited Him to do whatever He desired with me. So this time, as I looked at the psalm in the pages of my Bible, the following thoughts came to mind as I read:
"I am your shepherd, you will never be in want. I make you lie down in green pastures. I lead you beside quiet waters. I restore your soul. I guide you in paths of righteousness for My name’s sake. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for I am with you. My rod and My staff will comfort you. I prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies. I anoint your head with oil; your cup overflows. Surely My goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in My house forever."
How powerful it is when the Lord takes His eternal Word and breathes life through His Spirit into our lives! Suddenly, it is so much more than mere words on a page. God Himself, our Shepherd, speaks to one of His sheep with love and grace. And life is forever changed!
--Dave Butts is the president of Harvest Prayer Ministries. Dave is also the author of 10 books, among them are Pray Like the King and With One Cry. (C) 2016 Harvest Prayer Ministries.