This week I re-read the 4th century letter of Athanasius of Alexandria written to a man named Marcellinus on the importance and use of the Psalms. It is often available as part of the his famous work, On the Incarnation. It should be in every Christian’s library. The edition I have has an introduction by C.S. Lewis that is also classic. [The Kindle edition is on Amazon for $.99 !]
A good part of the letter is given to detailed “prescriptions” - Psalms to read in every situation. I’ve listed them out here. I look forward to taking more time to read the Psalms in this way to supplement my monthly reading of the Psalms. The entire letter is wonderful and can be accessed on-line.
in the Psalter… you learn about yourself. You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries.
Let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need.
He also recommends chanting or simply singing the Psalms as the way to “unify” the head and heart and body. For the most part, I chose not to change or paraphrase the writing.
Here is the list of 80+ Prescriptions for most every situation!
[NOTE: use the numbers in parentheses - the traditional Hebrew numbering in our English Bibles.
The first number listed is from the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, read in the early church. ]
1. Suppose, then, for example, that you want to declare any one to be blessed; you find the way to do it in Psalm 1, and likewise in 31 (32), 40 (41), 111 (112), 118 (119), and 127 (128).
2. If you want to rebuke the conspiracy…against the Saviour, you have Psalm 2.
3. If you are persecuted by your own family and opposed by many, say Psalm 3;
4. and when you would give thanks to God at your affliction’s end, sing 4 and 74 (75) and 114-115 (116).
5. When you see the wicked wanting to ensnare you and you wish your prayer to reach God’s ears, then wake up early and sing 5;
6. and if you feel yourself beneath the cloud of His displeasure, you can say 6 and 37 (38).
7. If any plot against you, as did Ahithophel against David, and someone tells you of it, sing Psalm 7, and put your trust in God Who will deliver you.
8. Contemplating humanity’s redemption and the Saviour’s universal grace, sing Psalm 8 to the Lord; and with this same Psalm or the 18th (19th) you may thank Him for the vintage.
9. For victory over the enemy and the saving of created things, take not glory to yourself but, knowing that it is the Son of God Who has thus brought things to a happy issue, say to Him Psalm 9; and, if any wishes to alarm you, the 10th (11th), still trusting in the Lord.
10. When you see the boundless pride of many, and evil passing great, so that among men [so it seems] no holy thing remains, take refuge with the Lord and say Psalm 11 (12).
11. And if this state of things be long drawn out, be not faint-hearted, as though God had forgotten you, but call upon Him with Psalm 26 (27). Continue Reading…