Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms

Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms[1]

The Psalms include a multitude of expressions of Israel’s communion with God. Believers of all ages have been encouraged and challenged by the prayers of the Psalms, which include a variety to prayer types. Christians may use any or all of these forms in their personal and congregational prayers.

  1. Lament/petition
    1. “Lament” commonly refers to an expression of grief, sorrow, or deep regret. Some psalms appeal to God for divine intervention in the face of a national disaster (communal lament). Other psalms are addressed to God in the context of an individual disaster, and appeal for God’s help (individual lament). Typically, the psalmist makes petition to God for his compassion and concludes with an expression of confidence in God’s help or with words of praise. The psalmist petitions God for God’s presence, good health, spiritual help, moral strength, material good, long life, rich progeny, victory in war, and the like. An example of petitionary prayer is Psalm 13 (read).
    2. Christians are easily tempted by the feeling that we are forgotten by God when we are in trouble and deep sorrow. But God does not forget us. We should cling fast to the truth that God is merciful to the believer who cries out for help and deliverance.
    3. Prayer strengthens our faith. In Psalm 13, the psalmist’s faith was not strong enough to proclaim his confidence in God’s help at the beginning of his prayer. But later, at the end of his prayer, his heart is flooded with confidence and praise. Such is the power of prayer and the effect it can have.
  2. Penitential prayer
    1. Penitence is an expression of repentance. The psalmist confesses that the chastisement of God comes to him because of his own sin. Psalms 32, 38 and 51 are recognized as penitential psalms. Read Ps 32:1-5.
    2. Although the penitent clearly expresses his own responsibility for the present wretchedness or calamity he is suffering, it is remarkable that he confesses not only his own sins, but also the hereditary sin, the fathers’ sins (Ps 51:5; 79:8; 106:6ff.).
    3. The penitent heart touched by God’s mercies cannot be silent: it must praise him and tell of his deliverance to others. Such an testimony will be a more powerful message to unbelievers than the message of those who do not deeply experience God’s forgiveness of their sins. Here, the psalmist seems to teach that the praise and witness of the forgiven penitent are also the privilege and duty of all other forgiven penitents.
  3. Intercessory prayer

Intercessory prayer asks God for something on behalf of someone or something else. Such prayer is often found in royal psalms in which the king plays a role. Psalms 20 and 72 are examples of an intercessory prayer found in “royal” psalms. The ideas and hopes expressed in this psalm lead the people to look not only to the present, but also to the future messianic king who will bring them all to fruition. Read Ps 72:1-4.

  1. Thanksgiving or confident prayer

When God answered some prayer or delivered an individual (or the nation) from trouble, the man (or the nation) offered thanks to God. So the thanksgiving prayer is a prayer of praise for the specific deed which God has just done for the one giving thanks. Psalms 9 and 40 are good examples. Read Ps 40:1-4

  1. Hymnic prayer
    1. Hymnic prayers expresses adoration directed exclusively to God. In such a prayer, the psalmist praises God for his greatness and might or for the beauty and wisdom of his creation. Psalms 8, 29, 33, 65, and 113 are examples of hymnic prayer. Read Ps 8.
    2. Hymnic prayers are usually full of hymnic expressions without making any petition to God. These psalms are not prayers of petition, but prayers of praise. Many of these psalms were likely liturgical songs sung at Israel’s worship.
    3. Recognizing the greatness, majesty, strength, holiness, and goodness of the Lord, a sincere believer cannot but praise him. As Christians, we should learn to pray to God in such hymnic adoration focused exclusively on God. Contemplating God’s nature and his abundant grace, we may say that our prayer should be first hymnic prayer, and then petitionary prayer.

[1] Kyu Nam Jung, “Prayer in the Psalms,” in Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World, ed. D. A. Carson, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2000), 36-49.


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

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