I will be honest. Memorization does not come easily to me or to my children. Still, Luther insisted that teachers should ask students to memorize a number of easy psalms. So, having memorized the catechism, we are turning toward memorizing psalms as a family.
The psalms are more than useful. They not only teach us to pray a full range of prayers, including praise, lament, thanksgiving, remembrance, and more. They also put godly words into our mouths for when we have to face our personal weaknesses, enemies, fear, impatience, etc.
In short, psalms form Christians as well as their prayers. Psalms lend us a wide perspective and wholesome channels for our thoughts, concerns, and feelings, while also joining us in prayer with one another, Christ, and the Church throughout the ages.
This resource for Psalm Memorization consists of five parts:
- A few paragraphs on incorporating—and recognizing—psalms in everyday life
- Recommended aids compiled from others
- 10 Shortest Psalms
- Luther’s Recommended Psalms
- A few Additional Psalms
The first is to assure parents. Whether or not you “know” or “have studied” the psalms, the psalms are part of Christian life. Parents are not starting at ground zero with memorizing psalms!
The second is to help in transitions, if or when help is needed. Many of the recommendations put psalms to music and that can provide phenomenal assistance in memory work.
The third may be a little cowardly on my part, but some things are learned by doing. I thought starting with short psalms could help me and my family grow in the discipline of memorizing Scripture passages rather than verses. The Small Catechism is a tremendous bridge between memorizing sentences and memorizing paragraphs. Still, psalms are poetry, not paragraphs.
In the fourth section, Luther suggests Psalms 112, 34, 128, 125, 127, and 133. These are noted from Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (1528, AE vol. 40, pp. 269-324) (excerpt found here in a great compilation, “Luther on Education”) and described as “a number of easy Psalms [sic] that contain in themselves a summary of the Christian life and speak about the fear of God, faith, and good works.”
The fifth section exists because there are simply more psalms to learn. Would we really exclude Psalm 23? Legend has it that Luther, in dark times, would say, “Come, let us sing the 46th psalm and let them do their worst.” Psalm 46 is foundational for “A Mighty Fortress.” Psalm 51 is significant for its depth of confession and trust—Here is a handout about Luther on Psalm 51 by Prof. Pless.
Altogether, there are 16 psalms here to memorize: 15 (5 verses), 23 (6 verses), 34 (22!), 46 (11), 51 (11), 70 (5), 93 (5), 112 (8), 117 (2), 123 (4), 125 (5), 127 (5), 128 (6), 131 (3), 133 (3), and 134 (3). If you’d rather memorize from a Bible or hymnal, of course do so! My First Hymnal includes several psalms that are obviously child friendly. But, perhaps, if your family successfully memorizes these 16 psalms—or 5, 10, whatever you choose—then you could celebrate or even award a child with a book like Reading the Psalms with Luther (available on CPH, Amazon, and elsewhere).
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