Too often we forget that the psalms are not merely pretty poems in the Bible to be quoted as one sees fit. Psalms are prayers, beautiful prayers that can be used for many different occasions.
Scripture does not exist so we can let it sit on our shelf and maybe flip it open on occasion. The Gospels exist to live on in our hearts, the Epistles give us wise instruction, the Books of the Maccabees make for an excellent and entertaining read, and many psalms can be used for daily prayer.
Here are a few select examples.
Psalm 50, good for morning prayer
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy: according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out mine iniquity.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge mine iniquity: and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned, and done evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and prevail when Thou art judged.
For behold, I was shapened in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.
For behold, Thou hast loved truth: the unclear and hidden things of Thy wisdom Thou hast made clear to me.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness: the bones which Thou hast broken shall rejoice.
Turn away Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and steady me with a guiding Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways: and the impious shall be converted unto Thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness.
O Lord, open Thou my lips: and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.
For if hadst Thou desired sacrifice, I would have given it Thee: Thou delightest not in burnt offerings.
Sacrifices to God are a contrite spirit: a contrite and humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
Do good, O Lord, in Thy good will unto Sion: that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.
Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with burnt-offering and whole-burnt offerings: then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.
Psalm 51, good for afternoon/evening and times of temptation
Why do you boast, O mighty one,
of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking the truth.
You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see, and fear,
and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
“See the one who would not take
refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches,
and sought refuge in wealth!”
But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
I will proclaim your name, for it is good.
Psalm 23, perhaps a bit over-quoted but a beautiful one nevertheless (used in the Syriac rite for their Divine Office)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 103, a praise of God through the beauty of his creation (sung at Byzantine Vespers)
Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord, my God, you are very great.
You are clothed in praise and honor; who covers yourself with light as with a garment,
Spreading out the heavens as a curtain. You cover your chambers with the waters;
You make the clouds your chariot; you walk on the wings of the wind,
You make the angels spirits, and your ministers a flaming fire.
You established the earth on its sure foundation; it shall never be moved.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters shall stand on the hills.
At your rebuke they shall flee; at the voice of your thunder they shall be alarmed.
They go up to the mountains and down to the plains, to the place which you founded for them.
You have set a boundary which they shall not pass, neither shall they turn again to cover the earth.
You send forth fountains among the valleys; the waters shall run between the mountains.
They shall give drink to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys shall quench their thirst.
By them the birds of the heavens shall have their habitation; they shall sing among the rocks.
You water the mountains from your chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your miracles.
You make grass grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man
that you may bring bread out of the earth, and wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face cheerful, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.
The trees of the plain shall be full of sap, even the cedars of Lebanon which you have planted.
There birds will build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are a refuge for stags, and the rock for the rabbits.
You appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows his going down.
You make darkness and it is night; in it all the wild beasts of the forest will creep about.
Young lions roar for prey, and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they gather together, and lie down in their dens.
Man goes forth to his work, and to his labor until the evening.
O Lord, how great are your works. In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is filled with your creation. This great and wide sea, in which are innumerable living things both small and great.
There sail the ships, and there is Leviathan which you have made to play there.
All wait for you, to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they will gather it up; when you open your hand, they shall be filled with goodness.
But when you have turned away your face, they shall be troubled. When you take away their breath, they fail, and return to their dust.
You sent forth your Spirit, and they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works; who looks upon the earth and makes it tremble; who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing praises to the Lord all my life; I will sing praises to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be sweet to him; I will rejoice in the Lord.
May sinners and wicked men disappear from the earth and may they be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Glory to you, O God