Psalms for Families: Devotions for All Ages, Introduction
Psalms for Families, by Robert J. Keeley and Laura Keeley, is a devotional book for the entire family designed to help parents explore the riches of the book of Psalms with their children and teens. These devotionals will help parents learn more about the psalms as they teach their children about praise, prayer, and lament. This book contains four devotionals on each of our selected psalms as well as notes for adults that provide additional information and background.
Why Read Psalms to Kids?
The psalms have served as the prayer book of God’s people for thousands of years. This book of poems and songs contains many beloved passages of Scripture, such as “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23) or “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51) or “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118). People turn to these words in their thoughts and in their prayers.
Perhaps we also love the psalms because of the emotions they express. Those emotions run the gamut from joy to sorrow, from praise to lament, and from pleading to thanksgiving. Psalms show us how we can respond to God, and they remind us that God knows us just as we are and hears us, even when our words are harsh. This is one reason why children and teens can benefit from knowing the psalms. When children are only exposed to the “feel-good” aspects of Christianity they may think that people of faith should not feel sad or angry. They may think that praise is the only attitude to have when addressing God and that they’re being “bad Christians” if they are hurting or have questions. The psalms reassure us that all these emotions are part of the human experience. It is important for children to know that they don’t always have to be happy to come to God. It is important that they learn how to tell God they’re sorry. It is important for them to learn how to ask God to help them. The psalms demonstrate all these things.
The psalms, though, are not children’s literature. They contain raw emotion and grown-up ideas that are sometimes difficult for children to grasp. Consequently there are some significant challenges to making psalms accessible to kids. Learning about the psalms together through family devotions is a great way to help children and teens understand them because it allows caring adults to explain and extend difficult concepts. There is no substitute for the good things that can happen when people of different ages study God’s Word together.
We intend this to be a family study, and we imagine adults, teens, and children gathered together, perhaps around a dinner table or before bed. These devotionals are kid-friendly and short enough to read at one sitting so that younger listeners stay engaged. They’re designed so that you will spend five or six days with one psalm. Working with the same psalm for a number of days is a variation of the ancient practice of lectio divina: read, meditate, pray, and contemplate. As you are working with a psalm, consider memorizing all or part of it together.
Here is a suggested weekly pattern for using these devotionals with your family.
Day 1: Read the entire psalm, followed by the suggested prayer. You’ll notice that some parts of the psalm are in bold print. To encourage more participation, ask one person to read the words in regular print and another person to read the words in bold. Children may also respond to the reading by drawing or doodling their impressions.
Days 2-5: Read a devotional each day for the next four days. Each devotional includes a reading of part or all of that week’s psalm. After the devotional, pray the prayer from the first day or create your own prayer based on the psalm. Each devotional is followed by a section called “Enter the Psalm,” which contains a suggestion for how your family can respond to the psalm in a more personal or active way. At the end of the four devotionals there is a section called “More.” It’s intended for adults and offers additional background about the psalm. You might want to read that section before you go through the psalm devotionals with your family.
Day 6: Read the psalm again. Talk about how your understanding of this psalm has changed over the week. How is it the same, and how is it different?
We tried to address each psalm as a whole. Some of the psalms are quite long though, too long for children and also too long to be read all at once by a family. We do, therefore, occasionally look at a psalm in small pieces, but we have tried to make sure that our reflection on each piece fits into the overall message of the psalm.
A number of the psalms begin with a superscription that explains the origin of the psalm. These superscripts often mention David. Sometimes they simply say “A psalm of David,” and sometimes they explain what was going on in David’s life when the psalm was written. Authorship is a relatively recent concept; at the time the psalms were written, people weren’t precise about who wrote which psalm. Noting that a psalm is “of David” might indicate that it was written in David’s honor or in David’s style. There is also general agreement by scholars that these notes were added to the psalms a long time after they were written, perhaps when the psalms were collected into one book. Since we are writing for families where children may be present, we want to make the devotionals as concrete as possible. So, for our purposes, in the devotionals we just accept the superscription at face value and assume that certain psalms were written by David.
To use these devotionals all you need is time together. It is our prayer that as you learn more about the psalms you will find your voice and your thoughts echoing the words and thoughts of the psalmist.
By Robert J. Keeley and Laura Keeley
In this Series:
If you don't see a place above to enter or view comments, it may be due to your browser's security or privacy settings. Please try adjusting your settings or using a different browser.