Introduction: In an effort to practice God’s presence and pray without ceasing, I have compiled a list of praises/prayers to God from the Psalms. These are purposefully short phrases that can be easily remembered and recited. This list is by no means exhaustive, as I have selected phrases for their clarity and brevity, as well as trying to avoid repeat entries. Since the Psalms are the praise and prayer book of the Bible, I began my survey in the Psalter.
Rationale: In the Western context, praise seems to be the most neglected area of prayer. This neglect especially hinders our prayer life because recognizing and praising God for who He is provides the foundation for prayer. Jesus seemed to point out the importance of beginning prayer with an acknowledgement of God’s character in His model prayer. He begins: “Our Father in heaven hallowed be your name, . . .” This short phrase both acknowledges God as the one to be revered and yet one who can be approached like a father. The next lines of the model prayer are further built off God’s nature: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .” As the Heavenly Father who is to be revered, His kingdom and will take precedence over our own. From this acknowledgement of who God is, thanks, confessions, and requests flow.
Our problems with prayer stem from skipping over the “hallowing” or praising part of prayer. This neglect is even more problematic when we are trying to develop an inner life of constant connection to God (a.k.a. “Practicing God’s presence,” prayer without ceasing, or constantly inclining our hearts towards God). For this reason, I am focusing on short scriptural praises that rightly orient us towards who God is–His character. When we see God as both a loving Father and Almighty creator, that understanding provides the proper relational foundation for further conversations with God. It’s not that we shouldn’t ask for stuff, but that our requests should be based on the character of the Giver. Jesus says as much when he was teaching on prayer in Luke 11:10-13: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Using a lesser to greater argument, Jesus wants His followers’ prayers to be empowered by a proper understanding of God’s character as heavenly Father. That relationship with the Father provides the foundation for transforming the disciples and the world. For this reason, the short praises listed below focus on the qualities, character, or names of God.
Although there is considerable scriptural overlap between praise and thanks, I reserve the word “praise” for extolling God for who He is. On the other hand, “thanks” is expressing gratitude for what God has done or given. Certainly, praise and thanks are related; for instance we see God’s gracious character though His free gift of salvation. We praise God for His grace, but we thank Him for our salvation. While thanking God for all that He gives would be a welcome improvement over just asking for stuff, we can still look at prayer through a transactional lens instead of a transformational lens. A transformational lens views prayer as a relationship with God that is meant to transform me and my agenda to be more in line with Christ’s character and agenda (see Ephesians 4:15). Praise shines the spotlight on the character of God so that we can clearly see God for who He is and who we are in relationship to Him. God is our highest good and the one we are striving towards—even that statement is a statement of praise, which re-orients us towards a transformational mindset to prayer.
The transformational relationship approach to prayer also beckons us to pursue a life of constant prayer and connection to the one we worship. Prayer does not have to be a distinct religious activity, but a way of relating to God. This constant inclination, awareness, and connection with God is how many view the command “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Brother Lawrence eloquently described this type of living as “practicing God’s presence” and other Christian writers like Frank Laubach and Thomas Kelly have continued to urge us on towards a constant connection to God that transforms our lives. That transforming connection strengthens when we bring to mind the One we are connecting to. The short praises/verses included below are meant to be reminders of God’s character that help us constantly incline our hearts towards Him.
Memorable, but biblical units: In most cases, I have taken the exact wording from the English Standard Version of the Bible, but limit the selections to a verse or phrase to aid in memory. When there are lots of praise phrases all crammed together, I often include a couple of verses so that the reader can choose how much of the verse to hold in mind.
Each of these phrases and verses have contexts that should also be studied, so I have included at least one Biblical reference for deeper study. We strive for the concepts in our minds to match the Biblical writers’ concepts, but our different historical context means that an attribute of God may conjure different images. This difference does not mean that our praise of God is wrong. Rather, we acknowledge and seek a deepening of our understanding that, at the very least, includes the original intention of Spirit-inspired writer.
For brevity’s sake, I sometimes include multiple references after one phrase even if the phrase is slightly different in each reference. I have also grouped some similar phrases together under an underlined heading. This topical arrangement makes locating a phrase that fits your need for the day easier as well as enhances memorization. Arranging and grouping the verses really was my own subjective choice. A different arrangement may work better for you, and I hope that this list inspires you to build your own!
Suggested methods: Select one of these phrases and throughout the day, lift it up as a praise to God. In most cases, I have included a whole verse that can be broken down into even smaller units. For example, Psalm 54:4 says, “God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” You may only be able to hold in your mind “God is my helper” or “The Lord upholds my life.” Whichever phrase you feel best suits your needs, no matter how short, is your connection line for a time. You may use the same phrase for weeks, or switch them up hour by hour, or build up phrases into one whole verse over the course of the day. Consider these phrases as means of connecting to God—to help us in transformational prayer. Focusing on memorization of the whole verse can be counterproductive. The phrase is meant to focus us upon God, not to focus on specific wording or memory capabilities.
Another consideration is feel free to modify the pronouns when using this list. Although all the Psalms are directed towards God, some refer to God in the third person (He, The Lord, Him, etc). You may want to change the pronouns so it feels more like a God-directed prayer. For instance, Psalm 4:3 states. “The Lord hears when I call to Him.” You could modify the phrase to say, “You, Lord, hear when I call to you.” If you feel like you need to address God directly to praise Him, then by all means modify the pronouns.
Finally, you may find these phrases helpful in making meditation an avenue of transformation and not just a relaxation technique. Try breathing in the character quality of God (as if you are trying to take that quality into yourself) and then breathe out a praise or thanks. For example, Psalm 103:8 says, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” As I breathe in I could say in my mind, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” As I breathe out I could say, “I praise you Lord for you are merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” If I wanted to add an attitude of thanks, I could instead breathe out saying, “I thank you Lord for Your grace, mercy and steadfast love towards me.”
At the end of the praise list, I do include an epilogue of short prayers for help (just from the Psalms). One naturally wants to cry out for help from this gracious God who abounds in steadfast love and lifts up the oppressed! I place these prayers for help at the end so that any requests for help will spring up from a deep praise and encounter with God.
I hope this list of scriptural praises and verses helps you to grow in praise, prayer, and practicing of God’s presence. From a place of praise may we be transformed toward the object of our praise!
Short Praises and Prayers from the Psalms:
God is Near, Hears and Cares for His People
The LORD hears when I call to him (Ps. 4:3)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Ps. 23:1; 80:1)
God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. (Ps. 54:4)
Lord, you hear prayer, (Ps. 65:2; 77:1)
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps. 103:2-5)
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! (Ps. 139:1)
The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. (Ps. 126:3)
He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, (Ps. 105:8; 111:5)
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Ps. 145:18)
The Lord is Holy and Just
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. (Ps. 5:4)
For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Ps. 5:12)
God is a righteous judge (Ps. 7:11)
The Lord loves justice (Psalm 37:28)
For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face. (Ps. 11:7)
The LORD our God is holy (Ps. 99:9)
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.( Ps. 145:17)
The Lord is my Highest Good and Joy
You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Ps. 3:3)
You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. (Ps. 16:2)
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps. 16:11)
You, Lord, satisfy my soul (Psalm 63:5; 73:25)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:26)
God is my Salvation
Salvation belongs to the LORD; God is my Salvation (Ps. 3:8; 38:22; 68:20)
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1)
The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation (Ps. 18:46)
The LORD is my Rock, my Fortress, Refuge, & Shield
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Ps. 18:2; 31:3; 62:6; 94:2)
The LORD is my strength and my shield; (Ps. 28:7)
The Lord is my fortress (Psalm 46:7; 91:2)
The Lord is my refuge (Psalm 25:20; 31:4; 46:1; 71:7; 91:2)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. (Ps. 90:1)
For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. 29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. 30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—32 the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. (Ps. 18:28-32)
He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me. (Ps. 144:2)
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. (Ps. 84:11)
The Lord Abounds in Grace, Mercy, and Steadfast Love
(Psalm 89; 103; also 36:5; 40:11; 59:17)
Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. (Ps. 25:6)
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Ps. 103:8; 145:8)
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps. 106:1; 107:1; 117:2; 118:1; 136)
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. (Ps. 108:4)
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Ps. 100:5)
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. (Ps. 116:5)
The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Ps. 145:9)
The Lord is Eternal and Above All
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:9 )
The LORD is king forever and ever; He is everlasting (Ps. 10:16; 29:10; 93:2)
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof (Ps. 24:1)
The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! (Ps. 24:10)
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Ps. 33:10-11)
God reigns over the nations; (Ps. 47:8)
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Ps. 57:5)
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim. (Ps. 80:1; 99:1)
LORD God of hosts! (Ps. 80:19)
You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. (Ps. 83:18; 86:10)
The Lord is high above all other gods. (Ps. 86:8; 95:3; 97:9)
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Ps. 135:5-6)
But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. (Ps. 102:12)
But you are the same, and your years have no end. (Ps. 102:27)
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Ps. 108:5)
The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! (Ps. 113:4)
The Lord is Powerful
The Lord is awesome in power (Ps. 66:3)
He gives power and strength to his people (Ps. 68:35)
You are the God who works wonders (Ps. 77:14; 86:10; 92:5)
Lord, you are maker of all things (Ps. 95:5; 96:5)
O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, 2 covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. (Ps. 104:1-2)
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Ps. 147:5)
The Lord is Worthy of Praise
From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! (Ps. 113:3)
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps. 118:24)
I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; (Ps. 138:1)
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Ps. 145:3)
Psalms 148-150 all call to various parts of creation to praise God loudly and with instruments. These are calls to praise more than praises themselves. Even though I don’t pull from these Psalms, you can shape them into Go-directed praises with a little bit of modification. .
The Lord Helps the Needy and Oppressed.
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Ps. 9:9)
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18)
He is the Father of the fatherless and protector of widows (Ps. 68:5)
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. (Ps. 103:6)
For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. (Ps. 109:31)
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, (Ps. 113:7)
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. (Ps. 146:8)
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)
Epilogue: Short Prayers for Help to our Praiseworthy God:
Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! (Ps. 109:26)
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! (Ps. 118:25)
Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! (Ps. 119:12)
I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. (Ps. 119:146-147)
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Ps. 121:1-2)
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us. (Ps. 123:2)
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; (Ps. 130:5)
Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge. 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! (Ps. 143:9-10)
The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Ps. 145:14-16)
 Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach, Practicing His Presence (Library of Spiritual Classics, vol. 1. Sargent, GA: Seed Sowers, 1973)
 As I was thinking about making a list of praises to aid myself in practicing God’s presence, I read A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly (New York: HarperCollins, 1992). In this work he suggests “seizing upon a fragment of a Psalm” as an aid to constant connection. God seemed to be confirming to me that I needed to stop thinking about making a list, and actually make this list.