Psalm 1: The Gateway to Effective Prayer

July 1, 2024

The Book of Psalms, known for its prayers, praises, and heartfelt appeals to God, opens with a strikingly different kind of psalm. Unlike many others, Psalm 1 is not a plea for help or a hymn of praise. Instead, it is a psalm of wisdom and morality. King David’s choice to begin with this psalm is both deliberate and profound, laying a foundation for the psalms that follow.

Psalm 1 serves as an introduction not only to the Book of Psalms but also to the righteous life that David advocates throughout. The opening verse of Psalm 1 lays out a clear distinction between the righteous and the wicked:

This verse highlights a progression of actions—walking, standing, and sitting—with three types of negative associations: the wicked, sinners, and mockers. Rabbi David Kimchi, known as Radak, explains that by avoiding even the first step of walking in the path of the wicked, one prevents the subsequent standing and sitting, which symbolize deeper involvement. This teaching emphasizes the importance of proactively avoiding sin.

The second verse of Psalm 1 provides the antidote to the negative behaviors outlined in the first:

This verse shifts the focus to the positive actions of the righteous. True happiness and righteousness come not just from avoiding evil but from actively engaging in good—specifically, meditating on and delighting in God’s law.

David then uses the metaphor of a tree to describe the righteous person:

This image conveys stability, continuous growth, and fruitfulness, symbolizing a life deeply rooted in God’s law. Just as a tree by water is constantly nourished and productive, so too is the righteous person who immerses themselves in God’s teachings. While a righteous person is constantly involved in good deeds and sets roots that are long-lasting, the wicked do nothing productive nor leave behind a legacy—like the chaff of wheat that bears no fruit and is blown away by the wind. Therefore, God will remember the righteous forever, but the wicked will not be able to stand on the day of judgment.

By starting the Book of Psalms with a psalm that emphasizes wisdom and moral conduct, David sets the stage for the prayers and praises that follow. As it says in Proverbs 15:29, the efficacy of prayer is linked to the righteousness of the one who prays: “The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

King David’s choice to begin the Book of Psalms with Psalm 1 is a strategic and meaningful one. The Book of Psalms is a collection of prayers, and Psalm 1 serves as a foundational reminder that the path to effective prayer and a meaningful relationship with God begins with righteous living. By aligning our lives with God and meditating on His law, we prepare our hearts and minds to connect with Him in prayer, ensuring that our prayers are heard and answered.

The Hebrew Bible is a very big book – actually, 24 books, to be exact. Studying it can feel very overwhelming. Where do you start?


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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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