When I became a Christian I was soon very confused indeed about the central place of the c. 150 Psalms in worship.
Why on earth should these apparently pre-Christian, ancient Jewish, poems or songs take-up such a very large amount of Christian worship?
Why, indeed, did Psalms apparently constitute almost the whole of Christian worship in ancient times?
(Especially before there were any Christian scriptures, but even much later. Some of the most devout and spiritually advanced Saints seemed barely to read the New Testament: knowing the basic Gospel story plus praying the Psalms seemed to be almost their whole devotional life.).
Why did some ancient monks sing them eight times a day, some modern monks four times a day, and even ordinary Anglicans twice a day?
Why are priests supposed to read the Psalms once a month, why are monks supposed to chant all of the Psalter every week for their whole lives?
Why did so many people in the past learn the Psalms by heart?
The first thing I did was to read C.S Lewis's Reflections on the Psalms.
Lewis, in this book, is at his most Protestant and least Catholic - and he firmly regards the Psalms as a record of ancient Jewish hymns by diverse hands, to be interpreted in their historical context; and at most providing reminders and correctives of specifically Christian ideals.
He did indeed alert me to many good things about the psalms - but the answers he gave did not even begin to explain why, much less to justify, the psalms should have taken up so much time and effort from Christians for at least three-quarters of the span of Christianity.
Even if everything positive which Lewis has to say about the Psalms was absolutely correct and that to the fullest degree - then the implication is that surely (if that is all there is to them) Christians could find something better to focus upon - something actually Christian?
The answer, I later discovered, is that traditionally Christians have regarded the Psalms as (in essence) a part of the New Testament, being uttered by and about Christ.
This is, of course, the original Orthodox and Catholic way of reading the Psalms, and the way which persisted over many, many centuries.
In a nutshell, the Psalms were always regarded as prophetic utterances; divinely inspired among the ancient Jews but revealing their true meaning only after the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Lewis swiftly disposes of this in a chapter on Second Meanings, and seems to conclude that this effect is only apparent; mostly merely a reminder of what happened some hundreds of years after the Psalms were composed.
Thus I have come to regard Lewis's book on the Psalms - for all its good nuggets - as perhaps his only fundamentally mistaken book - the only one in which he reasons like a modern Biblical scholar instead of forming a bridge to pre-modern wisdom.
Yet Lewis's actual practice was wiser than his understanding - he prayed the Psalms, frequently; he knew them by heart.
In sum, Lewis actually did, 'despite' all the reasons he gives which imply that it is not worth doing this, learn, read and speak the Psalms through - many, many times - for his whole adult life.
And there is a lesson in that.