Reading the Psalms


When my wife and I observe the hours in our home, the reading of the Psalms makes us uncomfortable. In the midst of such earnest repentance, it seems wrong to boast to God about how righteous we are and how we will smite and grind to dust those who work iniquity and so forth. Any thoughts on this?

Is it wrong of us to substitute more humble Psalms for the “official” ones?


I would suggest that perhaps you obtain a commentary which gives the context of each psalm. Surely when the psalms speak of “boasting in righteousness” it does not mean this in the prideful sense. And the psalms which call for smiting one’s enemies are speaking of spiritual enemies—overcoming them through prayer, fasting, and the “armor” of righteousness.

Perhaps, rather than eliminating psalms and prayers we do not like, it would be edifying to seek the meanings and contexts contained therein and in this way strive to expand our appreciation and understanding. The alternative, of course, is to “pick and choose,” which is quite subjective.

For example, a few years ago an Orthodox book was printed. In the selection of prayers, all prayers to the Virgin Mary, or with references to her, were eliminated so as not to alarm non-Orthodox who may have been reading the book. This is an extreme example of what can happen when we attempt to make our faith fit our beliefs, rather than changing our minds and hearts to embrace the fullness of Orthodox belief and practice.

I hope this helps, or that it at least gives a different perspective to the situation you describe.