Breaking down Psalm 199


This is article one of a four-part series on Psalm 119.

I recently discovered a different way to pray while studying Psalm 119 involving attitude and posture. Reading Psalm 119:33-40 alongside this article may allow you to catch this prayerful mindset and pose. This is an interactive devotional article, so pull up that Scripture address on your computer, phone, or Bible, right now, and read those eight verses.

You may ask, “Isn’t Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible? And isn’t Psalm 119 just a repetitive praising of God’s Law?” Well, yes, and no. Psalm 119 is 166 verses, and the song does focus on God’s Law. But if you break down the twenty-two Hebrew, alphabetized stanzas into eight verses at a time, and only study those eight verses one week at a time, the prayer poem begins revealing some interesting twists and turns. If you only have a casual examination of the text, the interesting bits may remain concealed. (On a side note, our Facebook Live prayer at 6 am on Tuesdays is currently praying one stanza a week if you want to join us.)

Notice the pleas for help found in each verse: “Teach me,” “Give me,” “Make me,” “Bend my heart,” “Turn my eyes,” “Establish Your Word,” “Take away my disgrace,” and “preserve my life.” Each entreaty is a request for something that only God can do, and the prayer teaches us both a posture and an attitude each disciple of Jesus should imitate.

First, a posture of prayer is hidden behind the English rendition. Each Hebrew letter possesses a name and symbol attached to them communicating extra meaning. This extra meaning literally gets lost in translation. The letter “Heh,” which has a sound like our letter “H” bears a symbol of a man standing with his arms outstretched, either looking at something or receiving something. And every sentence in this stanza begins with the Hebrew letter Heh.

What’s your posture like when you pray? Do you bow your head and close your eyes? Do you lay face down? Today, I recommend reading each sentence of this passage standing, with your arms outstretched and palms up, like you’re waiting to receive a gift from God. Then record in your mind and heart any difference your prayer posture makes.

Second, the posture tells us a little extra about the attitude every Christian needs to use in prayer. There are all sorts of types of prayers said within Psalm 119. Praying through the entire 176 verses allows us to pray prayers of praise, remembrance, thanksgiving, lament, confession, and contemplation. In the passage we’re focusing on, every single verse is an “asking” prayer. Each verse voices a unique “ask” concerning our knowledge, understanding, desire, and soul.

What’s your attitude when you pray? Do you have a continual conversation with The Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit confident in His love? Do you anticipate God’s answer? As we pray with our arms outstretched, we should take the same expectant, confident attitude of Psalm 119:33-40, and believe God provides the change for which the prayer asks. Today, try praying these eight verses three or four times and meditate on God’s answer. Maybe let me know how He is bringing out the changes in your own heart and mind that you asked for by emailing me your experience: [email protected]. Next week, we’ll continue with another article about Psalm 119; maybe take a couple of days and read through the entire Psalm and write down anything that sticks out to you or raises a question.

Dale McCamish is the pastor of Wilmington Church of Christ.

No posts to display