Praying with Luther: Psalm 130

Roman sentinel on the walls of Jerusalem on first easter morning

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

Psalm 130:1-2 (ESV)

The 130th psalm is a psalm of prayer that comes from genuine Davidic devotion and understanding. It confesses that before God no one is righteous, nor may one become righteous by his own work and righteousness, but only through grace and forgiveness of sins, which God has promised. The psalmist comforts himself. as he relies on this promise and Word. He exhorts all of Israel that they should do the same and learn that with God is a throne of grace and redemption. Through Him alone and no way else shall Israel be freed of sins, that is, “through forgiveness” (without which there is no grace) become righteous and blessed. Apart from this, he truly would be in the depths and would never stand before God.

Look! The true master and doctor of the Holy Scriptures is the one who understands what this means. The seed of the woman shall tread on the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15), and through this seed all the nations of the world shall be blessed (Genesis 12:30). Therefore, the psalmist places both a promise and a prophecy of Christ in this verse: “He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities (Psalm 130:8).” Upon this verse, and from it, comes the entire psalm.


God, our Father, who is rich in mercy and with whom is plenteous forgiveness, remember not the sins of our youth, nor our transgressions. Blot them out for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, who became the sacrifice for our sins. For the sake of His crimson blood let our sins be forgotten, and let them be imputed to us no more. Amen.

(from “Reading the Psalms with Luther”, pgs. 314-316)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 23

“Psalm 23” by Aleta Gudelski

The 23rd psalm is a psalm of thanks in which a Christian heart praises and thanks God for teaching him and keeping him on the right way, comforting and protecting him in every danger through His Holy Word. The psalmist compares himself to a sheep that a faithful shepherd leads into fresh grass and cool water. In addition, he shows the table, the cup, and oil also as images from the Old Testament worship and calls it all God’s Word, as it is also called rod and staff, grass, water, and the way of righteousness. This psalm belongs in the Third Commandment (of the Ten Commandments) and in the Second Petition (of the Lord’s Prayer).

Psalm 23 (ESV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Lord Jesus, who alone is that one Good Shepherd, thanks be unto You for all Your spiritual and bodily benefits. Let the Word of Your salvation dwell among us richly, and suffer not that trusty staff, the word of Your promise, to be taken from us. And when the shadow of death spreads over us, conduct us safely to the fold of perfected saints, the tabernacle not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 59-60)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 95

The 95th psalm is a prophecy of Christ; the Letter to the Hebrews extensively treats it as a prophecy of the time of the New Testament and of the voice of the Gospel. In short, the psalm teaches and calls us to Christ and to the Word of God, to true worship. The psalmist warns us by the example of the faithless fathers in the wilderness, who also did not come into the promised land on account of their unbelief and contempt for God.

You must, however, apply the entire psalm to Christ: He is Himself the God whom we are exhorted to worship. He has made us and is our shepherd, and we are His sheep. He is the one who tested the unbelieving father, as Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:9 also states. From henceforth He will receive no Mosaic worship, but instead faith, joyful preaching, praise and thanksgiving.


Lord Jesus, teach us to profit by the warning examples of others. So govern us that we do not harden our hearts, as did those at Meribah. Incline our hearts to Your Gospel and enable us by Your good Spirit to receive with meekness the engrafted Word that is able to save the soul. Suffer us not, O Lord, to fall from You, neither in life nor in death. Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 226-227)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 121

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:1-2

The 121st psalm is a psalm of comfort in which the psalmist comforts us by his example, so that we may remain strong in faith and wait for God’s help and protection. Although it appears as though He sleeps or slumbers so that we are struck down by the sun by day and the moon at night, yet it is not so, though we may think and feel it. For God watches and keeps us secure and does not let the sun strike us dead. This we will come to know for certain at last, though we can now only look forward to it. 


To You, O God, who has hitherto been our Father and our Patron, do we lift up our eyes, knowing that from You alone can come our help and our salvation. Grant us a living trust in Your mercy and truth that hearts do not fear when we must pass through the fire of trials or must wade through the waters of affliction, but always maintain a cheerful trust in Your help, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 302-303)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 32

The 32nd psalm in an exemplary psalm of instruction that teaches us what sin is, and how one might be freed from it and be righteous before God. Our reason does not know what sin is and tries to make satisfaction for it with works. But the psalmist says that even saints are sinners. The cannot become holy or blessed except by confessing themselves as sinners before God, knowing that they are regarded as righteous only from the grace of God, apart from any service or work.

In short, our righteousness is called the forgiveness of our sins. Or, as it says here: “sins not counted,” “sins covered,” “sins not to be seen.” Here stand the clear plain words: All the saints are sinners and remain sinners. But they are holy because God in His grace neither sees nor counts these sins, but forgets, forgives, and covers them. There is thus no distinction between the saints and the non-saints. They are sinners alike and all sin daily, only that the sins of the holy are not counted but covered; and the sins of the unholy are not covered but counted. One would have a healing dressing on and is bandaged; the other wound is open and undressed. Nevertheless, both of them are truly wounded, truly sinners, concerning which we in our books in other places have abundantly bore witness.


O God, our heavenly Father, with whom is grace and much forgiveness, be merciful to us who were born in sin and cannot but sin and fall short every day. Forgive us our many transgressions and account them against us no more, but make us Your heirs through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, who was delivered into death for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 78-79)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 2

“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

Psalm 2:10-11

“Emperor Leon VI Paying Homage to Christ as Pantocrator”

Psalm 2 is a prophecy of Christ, that He would suffer, and through His suffering become King and Lord of the whole world. Within this psalm stands a warning against the kings and lords of this world: If, instead of honoring and serving this King, they seek to persecute and blot Him out, they shall perish. This psalm also contains the promise that those who believe in the true King will be blessed.

This psalm flows from the First Commandment, in which God promises to be our God, who will help us in every trouble and will work all good for us—just as He has, through Christ, delivered us from sin, death, and hell and brought us to eternal life. This blessing is what we pray for in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer—that His kingdom come.


Thanks be unto You, O Lord Jesus Christ, because You were once dead, and by Your blood redeemed us from sin and everlasting torment. We desire to serve You all the days of our life. Preserve us in the midst of so many enemies, and by Your mighty hand preserve us for Your eternal kingdom! Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 17-19)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 119

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!”

Psalm 119:1 

The 119th psalm is a long psalm, containing prayers, comforts, instructions, and thanks in great number. It is chiefly written to make us excited about God’s Word. It praises God’s Word throughout and warns us against both the false teachers and against boredom and contempt for the Word. Therefore, it is primarily to be counted among the psalms of comfort. Its primary concern is that we have God’s Word in its purity and hear it gladly. From this concern, then, come powerful prayers, instructions, thanks, prophecies, worship of God, suffering, and all that pleases God and grieves the devil. But where one despises the Word and is satiated by it, there all these cease. For where the Word is not purely taught, there is truly an abundance of prayers, instructions, comforts, worship, suffering, and prophecies—but totally false and condemned! For it is then only service to the devil, who is thus impure with all his heretics.


Beloved Father in heaven, You are blessed for granting us the Word of Your grace, in which You have revealed to us Your will concerning our salvation. Teach us to love Your Word, diligently to hear and willingly to learn it, that guided by this lamp our feet may walk in the way everlasting. Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 285-286)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 112

“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.”

Psalm 112:1-4

Impressionism:  Sunrise by Claude Monet, 1873.  
“Light dawns in the darkness for the upright.”  (Psalm 112:4)

The 112th psalm is a psalm of comfort in which the pious, who fear God, are praised for their good life and are promised eternal comfort against all trouble. They are especially commended to a sincere confidence and trust in God’s grace, so that they may be undismayed and undaunted (which is real, true faith) until they see the destruction of the godless and their foes.


O Lord, the Reward of them that fear You, and the Defense of Your people, who in Your Son, Jesus Christ, has promised grace and everlasting righteousness to them that believe, establish our hearts by Your grace that, rooted in the faith of Your Word, we may be able to stand in the day of trial. Strengthen us to resist the enticing lust of sin, and to triumph over Satan, death, and hell through Jesus Christ. Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 271-272)

Praying with Luther: Psalm 15

“O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.”

Psalm 15:1-2

The 15th psalm is a psalm of instruction that teaches the true understanding of the Law, the truly good life, and true good works. These are all fruits of the Spirit and of faith: to live blameless before God through true faith, to do right to the neighbor, and to turn away from the evil ways and from the hypocrisy of the ungodly, by which they serve God with fraudulent works and omit the true works. This psalm belongs to the Third Commandment, concerning the Sabbath, in which we are to hear and learn God’s Word, and it is in the Third Petition (of the Lord’s Prayer).


O Lord, our gracious and merciful Father, grant us steadfastly to believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior; to fearlessly confess Him before men to the reproving of the unbelieving and the wicked. Strengthen us by Your Spirit to walk honestly as in the light of day, both privately and in public. Amen.

(from Reading the Psalms with Luther, pgs. 40-41)

Praying with Luther: The Earnest Prayer

“But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6

Where there is to be true prayer, there must be utter earnestness. We must feel our need, the distress that drives and impels us to cry out. Then prayer will come spontaneously, as it should, and no one will need to be taught how to prepare for it or how to create the proper devotion. God wants you to lament and express your needs and concerns, not because he is unaware of them, but in order that you may kindle your heart to stronger and greater desires and open and spread your apron wide to receive many things.

(from Martin Luther’s Works, Vol. 43)


Thanks to You, Lord Jesus, for planting Your Gospel at this place, and gathering a Church that continues in Your Word. Drive far from us the indifference and apathy of these latter evil days. Cause our hearts to burn with zeal for the truth of Your Word, and preserve Your doctrine true at this place, that our children after us may be still praising You. Amen.(from Martin Luther’s Commentary on Psalm 76)