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What I’ve Learned from Spending a Little of Each Day in the Psalms

Starting in 2019, I started a slow journey through the Psalms. My goal was to reflect on 1 or 2 verses from the Psalms each day and write down those reflections in a devotional journal. The first psalm invites us to meditate day and night on the Torah, the Word of God, with the promise of a fruitful life. This life is pictured as a tree planted by streams of water, constantly refreshed and fed through roots tapping into the source of life, infusing every branch, limb, and leaf.

Biblical mediation has been likened to the process of chewing, and as a child I was taught to chew my food 32 times before swallowing (something I’ve never managed to accomplish). What if I chewed with that kind of intensity on small morsels of Scripture every day, savoring them in my mouth and mind for long periods of time?

Full disclosure: I wasn’t completely consistent. I missed some days here and there, but I made sure to catch up in order to keep on track. My usual habit was to rise and pour a cup of coffee, open my laptop, and pray Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in your law.” I would then read the text in Hebrew using the Hebrew/English interlinear at Biblehub.com. (You don’t need to know Hebrew to do this; here’s how).

Sometimes there was an interesting word to investigate further, but most of the time I just made observations, asked questions, made connections, and always listened for God’s voice to help me apply truth to my life and the world. Periodically I uploaded those reflections to my website as commentary, hoping that someone might find them helpful.


“Most of the time I just made observations, asked questions, made connections, and always listened for God’s voice to help me apply truth to my life and the world.”


Here’s what I’ve learned as I prayed a few verses of a psalm every day.

1. It’s a great way to start the day.

In Psalm 63:1, David prayed, “O God, my God, early will I seek you.” The Hebrew word translated early can be understood in both its temporal sense (early in the morning) and in its qualitative sense (first and foremost). Most modern translations lean toward the latter and translate the phrase “earnestly I seek you,” while older translations favor “early” in its temporal sense. Like many things in the scriptures, both can be true at the same time.

There is something to be said for rising early to seek God. Jesus got up early while it was still dark to go out and pray (Mark 1:35), and that example alone should be good enough for us. Historically, monastic communities practiced the praying of Psalm 63 as the first prayer of the day. We all awaken with a sense of physical thirst, and this should remind us of our fundamental spiritual thirst for God.

With a cup of coffee in hand for my physical thirst and the biblical text before me, I found there was not a more satisfying way to start the day. Doing this day after day, month after month for over three years, it is a habit that I quite enjoy and eagerly anticipate, breathing in the stillness of the morning before the tasks of the day begin to overwhelm my senses.


‘With a cup of coffee in hand for my physical thirst and the biblical text before me, I found there was not a more satisfying way to start the day.”


2. It changes the way you see the world.

I can tend to be a news junkie, and over the last few years in particular that has not always been a healthy thing. A global pandemic, intense political polarization, widespread distrust of media and institutions, and a seismic reversal in fundamental beliefs about marriage, family, and gender—these have been extremely unsettling times to say the least.

One of the consistent messages throughout the Psalms is that God is sovereign over all. He reigns supreme, and mankind’s futile attempts to resist his authority and redefine reality on their own terms are met with divine laughter (Psalm 2:1-6) and a promise that His Son will come down to make things right (Psalm 2:7-12).

When the psalmist asks, “When the foundations are being torn down, what can the righteous do?,” he answers his own question in the following verse, saying, “The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, he examines the children of man” (Psalm 11:3, 4).

I’ve made Psalm 62:1-2 my daily prayer: “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” If you are being shaken by current events, spend ten minutes every day in the Psalms to regain a vision of ultimate reality, and then take your stand on what cannot be shaken.


“If you are being shaken by current events, spend ten minutes every day in the Psalms to regain a vision of ultimate reality, and then take your stand on what cannot be shaken.”


3. Repetition is not a bad thing.

Modern worship songs are often unfairly criticized for their lyrical repetition. Maybe you’ve heard them described with the pejorative “7-11 songs” (seven words sung eleven times). Any time I hear this complaint, I want to say, “Have you ever read the Psalms?”

I spent two weeks in Psalm 136, reading “His faithful love endures forever” every single day. Is it possible to be reminded of God’s steadfast love too often? I don’t think so, and apparently neither did the psalmist.

I spent three months, the entire summer of 2022 in fact, reading Psalm 119 reflecting primarily on one thing: the Word of God in all of its inexhaustible wonder and beauty. How could we tire of being reminded that the Creator of the cosmos seeks a relationship with us, speaks to us in human language and visits us in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word of God (John 1:12)?

The hallmark of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, two poetic lines that correspond to one another, creating a rhythm of ideas. Repetition is built into the very fabric of the Psalms, so don’t labor under the burden that you’ve got to come up with something new and profound to say to God every day. Just use the same words that Jesus and the saints of the ages used when praying to Him. It’s not that complicated.


“Just use the same words that Jesus and the saints of the ages used when praying to Him. It’s not that complicated.”


We repeat important things until they become automatic and unforgettable. Take the word “hallelujah” (praise the LORD) for example. It occurs 22 times in the Psalms, appearing for the first time in Psalm 104. (Incidentally, there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and this corresponds to the number of hallelujahs in the Psalms, suggesting completeness and totality, like from A-Z). Each of the last five psalms begins and ends with Hallelujah!

Maybe we should say this Hebrew word so often throughout the day that it becomes a reflexive habit when we encounter the goodness and glory of God. Hallelujah!

4. There is something sweet to savor in every verse.

In all honesty, I have to admit that at times it was a slow and tedious process. For example, it can be exhausting to spend week after week lamenting and cursing with the psalmist. There are some dark and difficult psalms that have to be reckoned with, language that I couldn’t avoid on my way to the more palatable words of other psalms.

I found that wrestling with hard passages was both humbling and fulfilling. Some of the most difficult psalms became favorites (Psalm 74 for example). Often I would be surprised with insights, things I had missed even after years of studying and teaching the Psalms. God was indeed opening my eyes to behold wonderful things in His law.

One of the verses that connected deeply with me, perhaps because of the season of life that I was in at the time, was Psalm 81:16: “With honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” It spoke the truth to me that sometimes sweetness can be found in hard places. The psalm is a reflection on the wilderness wanderings of Israel, but easily serves as a metaphor for us in hard seasons of life. Even in the most painful of times, when God is with us, there is sweetness as well.


“I found that wrestling with hard passages was both humbling and fulfilling.”


Jesus is our Rock in the wilderness, and proof positive that God is with us in our suffering. In this multiple-year journey through the Psalms, I was intently looking for Jesus in every verse, and over and over again I found Him. There was honey in the Rock, sweet and satisfying, compelling me to come back the next day from more.


For more from Matt, check out mattstaffordpsalms.com. Used with permission.

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