I read this passage from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "Life Together" and decided to share it with everyone because it explains a quandary that I found myself in at one time when I started off trying to read the Psalms as prayers. I love how Bonhoeffer explains the quandary which so many can relate to and the explanation that makes the understanding of the dilemma make sense almost at once. He starts off with a question so many have asked at one point of another:
How can God's Word be at the same time prayer to God?
The question brings with it an observation that is made by everybody who begins to use the psalms as prayers. First he tries to repeat the psalms personally as his own prayer. But soon he comes upon passages that he feels he cannot utter as his own personal petitions. We recall, for example, the psalms of innocence, the bitter, the imprecatory psalms, and also in part the psalms of the Passion. And yet these prayers are words of Holy Scripture which a believing Christian cannot simply dismiss as outword and obsolete, as "early stages of religion."...He can read and hear them as the prayer of another person, wonder about them, be offended by them, but can neither pray them himself nor discard them from the Bible.
The practical expedient would be to say that any person in this sitaution should first stick to the psalms he can understand and repeat, and in that case of the other psalms he should learn quite simply to let stand what is incomprehensible and difficult...this difficulty indicates the point at which we get our first glimpse of the secret of the Psalter. A psalm that we cannot utter is a prayer, that makes us falter and horrifies us, is a hint to us that here Someone else is praying, nor we; that the One who is here protesting his innocence, who is invoking God's judgment, who has come to such infinite depths of suffering, is none other than Jesus Christ himself. He it is who is praying here, and not only here but in the whole Psalter.
...Even if a verse or a psalm is not one's own prayer, it is nevertheless the prayer of another member of the fellowship; so it is quite certainly the prayer of the Man Jesus Christ and his Body on earth. ...The Psalter is the great school of prayer.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p.45
Here is how Ambrose, a 4th century bishop of Milan viewed the Psalms.
"Yes, a psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people, a hymn in praise of God, the assembly's homage, a general acclamation, a word that speaks for all, the voice of the church, a confession of faith in song. It is the voice of complete assent, the joy of freedom, a cry of happiness, the echo of gladness. It soothes the temper, distracts from care, litens the burden of sorrow. Day begins to the music of a psalm. Day closes to the echo of a psalm."
So, when we read the Psalms and come across passages that we think have nothing to do with ourselves, we shouldn't skip over them! Or merely think of them as something that has no application to ourselves and that should be perceived from simply a historical viewpoint.We should be reminded that the Psalms speak for all our brothers and sisters, including ourselves. Even if we are having a great day and then come across a Psalm that speaks of being in despair and surrounded by one's enemies..it is a reminder of the persecution of others in the body of Christ...others that need our prayers.