Our practice this year has been to read the Psalms, which contain 5 books, book by book. Now we return to Book V (Psalms 107-150) . The first series of psalms 111-118 are the “Hallelujah Psalms”. The “Egyptian Hallel (ps 113-118) was sung for the three great pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. The “Psalms of Ascent” (ps 120-134) were used by pilgrims to or from Jerusalem. Psalm 136 is the “Great Hallel” for Sabbath services. Psalm 146-150 end the book with “Praise the Lord”. Psalms 107 and 119 may be introductory psalms. 107 introduces the fifth book and 119 introduces the psalms of ascent. Psalm 137 is untitled and unclassified. There are psalms of David in this book, 108-110 and 138-145.
You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.
Here is a prayer from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) who was an early Church father.
Lord, as I read the psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. And as I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen.
Psalm 140: An individual petition. Verses 1-3 and 4-5 are cries for help. Verses 6-8 are an expression of trust. Verses 9-11 are a plea for help against the wicked. Verses 12-13 are an expression of trust.
Psalm 141: An individual petition: In this psalm the psalmist asks God for protection from the psalmist’s own actions. Verses 1-2 ask God to hear the psalmist’s plea. Verses 3-7 are petitions for God to protect the psalmist from evil and associating with evil persons. The translation of verses 5-7 is difficult and uncertain because of difficulties with the condition of the Hebrew text. Verses 8-10 are again, a plea for help.
Psalm 142: An individual petition: A “maskil” is a technical term that we do not understand the significance of. “In the cave” may be a reference to the time David had to flee from Saul (1 Sam 24). There are two parts to this psalm. Verse 1-4 are a cry for help and a statement that there is no one else to turn to. Verses 5-7 are further cries for help but also contain an expression of trust.
Psalm 143: An individual petition: This is one of the penitential psalms ( Pss 6,32,51,102,130,143). A psalm that states no one is righteous before God, it is God’s faithfulness and righteous that save us. Verses 1-2 are the cry for help. Verses 3-4 tell of the psalmist’s troubles. Verses 5-6 the psalmist recalls God’s past faithfulness. Verse 7-12 are a request for a prompt response and plea for help.
Psalm 144: A royal prayer for help. This is an individual psalm but the individual appears to be the king. This psalm quotes other psalms, see Psalm 18. Also Psalm 8,90,103,146,18. Verses 1-2 the king thanks God for victory over others. Verses 3-4 , like several other psalms reflect on the brevity of human life. Verses 5-8 ask for God’s help using the imagery of theophany ( smoke, lightening, etc.) Verses 9-11 contain the promise of praise and another request for rescue. Verses 12-15 are a communal prayer for blessing.
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of the Psalms
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Clifford, Richard, “Psalms” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Stuhlmueller, Carroll, “Psalms” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
McCann,Jr, J. Clifton “Psalms”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 3, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996.