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Praying the Psalms [Paperback]

Thomas Merton
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 1 1956 By Thomas Merton
Merton shows us how to draw out the richness of worship from the psalter and to use it to achieve "the peace that comes from submission to God's will and from perfect confidence in him".......Catholic Review Service.

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Why has the Church always considered the Psalms her most perfect book of prayer? Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I was hoping to find the same penetrating and illuminating insights to the Psalms as can be found in Merton's writings about social issues. It wasn't that kind of book, but, nevertheless, this introduction to the Psalms is a little gem.
The beginning starts off like a set of frequently asked questions about the Psalms-an old fashioned catechism of sorts. At worst, some parts read like theological pious platitudes. The book was written in 1955, and much of it has a pre-Vatican II veneer. Merton seems to address Roman Catholics only. When he mentions the church, he means the institutional church, and he stresses obedience. He doesn't overdo these things. I just noticed them.
Merton centers the Psalms on Christ and the church. He extracts teachings about the Psalms from Saint Augustine as well as Saint Ambrose. Defying the repressive stereotype of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, Merton addresses the issue of emotion, both in the Psalms and in the one who prays them. What I did find very insightful was the idea that controlled emotion, because it is controlled, is often experienced as more intense than otherwise. This idea is a good counterweight to the unhinged emotion of some members of the post-Vatican II, Charismatic movement.

In the second half of the book, Merton delves into individual as well as groups and categories of Psalms. The main thrust of the book is to prepare the devout to begin to cultivate the interior life. What I did find illuminating is Merton's explanation of why we should praise God. He claims that, in doing so, we can help sense and cultivate an appreciation for God's love for us. I think there is certain emotion logic to that statement. It would be immensely therapeutic for anyone. Lastly, Merton holds hold up Mary, the mother Jesus, as a model of the interior life, for us to emulate. And that is a nice counterweight to the masculine harshness of obedience.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly weak for Merton July 8 2004
Format:Paperback
This slim volume is an introduction to praying the psalms; it is not an introduction to praying the psalms within the Liturgy of the Hours. The intended audience is unclear - it begins with a recommendation to read a book in French ... a task not all of us are up to. In introducing the benefits of praying the psalms, Merton notes "The words and thoughts of the Psalms spring not only from the unsearchable depts of God, but also from the inmost heart of the Church..."
In discussing how we should pray the psalms, he notes "But the subjective fruit of this divine and universal prayer, ... depends on how faithfully we make the sentiments of the Psalms our own." In this discussion, Merton makes two statements that fix him in time. First, he states that the father of a family should lead family prayer. Second, his view of praying the psalms is monastic - focusing inward/God-ward - rather than lay which is focused on the world and God. (See Charles E. Miller's Together in Prayer for a dicussion of the outward/apostolic focus.)
Merton's discussion on how to pray the psalms focuses on classifying the psalms: psalms delighting in the law of the Lord, psalms of luminous peace, psalms of the journey to the New Jerusalem ...
The strength of this book is the translation of the psalms that he uses - The Psalms, A Prayer Book published by the Benzinger Brothers, Inc. It is also a book of interest to diehard Merton fans. For others, there are better introductions to praying the psalms available.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
82 of 90 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear, general intro to the Psalms, but slightly dated Dec 1 2002
By Stephen M. Bauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was hoping to find the same penetrating and illuminating insights to the Psalms as can be found in Merton's writings about social issues. It wasn't that kind of book, but, nevertheless, this introduction to the Psalms is a little gem.
The beginning starts off like a set of frequently asked questions about the Psalms-an old fashioned catechism of sorts. At worst, some parts read like theological pious platitudes. The book was written in 1955, and much of it has a pre-Vatican II veneer. Merton seems to address Roman Catholics only. When he mentions the church, he means the institutional church, and he stresses obedience. He doesn't overdo these things. I just noticed them.
Merton centers the Psalms on Christ and the church. He extracts teachings about the Psalms from Saint Augustine as well as Saint Ambrose. Defying the repressive stereotype of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, Merton addresses the issue of emotion, both in the Psalms and in the one who prays them. What I did find very insightful was the idea that controlled emotion, because it is controlled, is often experienced as more intense than otherwise. This idea is a good counterweight to the unhinged emotion of some members of the post-Vatican II, Charismatic movement.

In the second half of the book, Merton delves into individual as well as groups and categories of Psalms. The main thrust of the book is to prepare the devout to begin to cultivate the interior life. What I did find illuminating is Merton's explanation of why we should praise God. He claims that, in doing so, we can help sense and cultivate an appreciation for God's love for us. I think there is certain emotion logic to that statement. It would be immensely therapeutic for anyone. Lastly, Merton holds hold up Mary, the mother Jesus, as a model of the interior life, for us to emulate. And that is a nice counterweight to the masculine harshness of obedience.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Meaniful and Timely May 30 2000
By "dianne123" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Even though Mertons work is 44 years old it is very for today. This book helps you focus and understand the Psalms and outs them in a today view. I highly recommend this book for focusing on the Psalms and relating themt o today. In addition I have found all of Mertons work to be very realastic and one the layperson can put into daily use.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly weak for Merton July 8 2004
By M. J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This slim volume is an introduction to praying the psalms; it is not an introduction to praying the psalms within the Liturgy of the Hours. The intended audience is unclear - it begins with a recommendation to read a book in French ... a task not all of us are up to. In introducing the benefits of praying the psalms, Merton notes "The words and thoughts of the Psalms spring not only from the unsearchable depts of God, but also from the inmost heart of the Church..."
In discussing how we should pray the psalms, he notes "But the subjective fruit of this divine and universal prayer, ... depends on how faithfully we make the sentiments of the Psalms our own." In this discussion, Merton makes two statements that fix him in time. First, he states that the father of a family should lead family prayer. Second, his view of praying the psalms is monastic - focusing inward/God-ward - rather than lay which is focused on the world and God. (See Charles E. Miller's Together in Prayer for a dicussion of the outward/apostolic focus.)
Merton's discussion on how to pray the psalms focuses on classifying the psalms: psalms delighting in the law of the Lord, psalms of luminous peace, psalms of the journey to the New Jerusalem ...
The strength of this book is the translation of the psalms that he uses - The Psalms, A Prayer Book published by the Benzinger Brothers, Inc. It is also a book of interest to diehard Merton fans. For others, there are better introductions to praying the psalms available.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An answered prayer! Oct. 30 2005
By Anchoress - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book answered many questions I had for years about the Psalms and difficulties I had in praying the Psalms. It was a real eye-opener for me! I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil the beauty of the surprise awaiting the readers of this wonderful little book. It is a short and easy read and opens the beautiful world of the Psalms to those seeking a deeper understanding. I discovered it when my spiritual director loaned me his copy to read, and I am ever grateful for the revelations gained from this little book. So when I found it at amazon.com, I had to purchase a copy to share when the occasion arises...and it has!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction to the Use of the Psalms Dec 23 2001
By Steven Isaak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Merton's book on Praying using the Psalms is a great introduction into this fabulous book of the Bible. It's exmaples and eloquence speak volumes in the development of a Christian's prayer life. I consider this book a must have classic to be read on an annual basis.
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