Reciting Tehillim for those who are ill has become a widespread and pedigreed righteous practice shared by scholar and layperson alike. To my knowledge, there are, at least, three avenues of explanation for this practice: 1. Tehillim as Torah Study; 2. Tehillim as Prayer; 3. and Tehillim as mystical practice. Before I can explain this more fully, I will share a Talmudic passage that relates to each of these three approaches. The Talmud teaches (Talmud Bavli, Shevuot 15b):
When the ancient psalmists gazed into the heavens, they did not behold an endless abyss of cosmic nothingness; rather, they beheld a God with whom they could audaciously and personally address as “You.” All these sundry personal pronouns and anthropomorphic metaphors serve to convey something profound about the mystery of God’s Presence and closeness to the world, without which God could not be known. Martin Buber notes that in addition, anthropomorphic language reflects.
There are many different traditions around the recitation of Psalms. One tradition is to recite Psalms all night while holding vigil with a corpse the night before burial. Certain Psalms are recited in connection with various holidays. In some traditional communities, people are encouraged to recite the Psalms every day. According to midrash, King David created the psalms to fit every occasion, every need. Many of the psalms contain messages of comfort and hope, and as such are appropriate to say at the bedside of one who is ill.