The Prayer of the Weak and the Joy of Singing Psalms

Imagine that God had given us a hymn book? – one with his words.  One that revealed his character.  One that expresses our emotions and hearts in words that the Holy Spirit inspires.  One that speaks of and to Christ.  One that is traditional, modern, post-modern and contemporary. One that is praise, lament, confession, rejoicing, individual and collective.  The hymn book that Jesus used. What would we give for such a book?    What value would we place on it?   Well he has – the book of Psalms – and yet it appears that many evangelical churches seem to place very little value on it.   I genuinely don’t understand churches that don’t sing psalms – apart from Ps 23 and those like 10,000 Reasons (based on Ps 103) that draw inspiration from them.

 

I think for me I would find it almost impossible to go to a church that did not use the hymn book that God has given us.  (note this is not an argument for exclusive psalmody but rather one for inclusive psalmody – nor is it an argument for a particular style – I love our tradition of accapela singing, and also Anglican plain chant,  Gregorian Orthodox, Gaelic and instrumental – Sons of Korah etc).

This was brought home to me last night at our prayer meeting.  It was encouraging to have such a large attendance – we had to keep widening the circle until it filled the room! And it was encouraging just to be in the presence of God and be able to pray.  We have had a lot of troubles recently  – sickness, death, trials,  spiritual warfare etc.  It was so beautiful to be able to come into the Lords presence with his words that were so directly appropriate for many people and us collectively as a body as we mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.  Where in any hymnody or praise book would you get a song entitled –  A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD?    Yet this was the Psalm (102) that we sang last night – in two parts…we did not do the third but it is worth reading on….!

LORD, listen to my prayer,
And hear my cry for aid.
2 Hide not your face from me,
For I am so afraid.
Incline your ear to me in need;
And, when I call, be swift to heed.

3 Like smoke my days are gone;
My bones are burned away.
4 My appetite is lost;
My heart is parched like hay.
5 Because of my incessant groans
I am no more than skin and bones.

6 I’m like a desert owl,
An owl midst tumbled stone,
7 Or bird upon a roof—
I lie awake, alone.
8 My foes revile me all day long;
My haters mock my name in song.

9 For ashes are my food;
I weep incessantly
10 Because in your great wrath
You have abandoned me.
11 My days like evening shadows pass;
I wither like the sun-dried grass.

12 But you, O LORD, are set
For ever on your throne;
Through each succeeding age
Endures your great renown.
13 You will arise in mighty power;
On Zion mercy you will shower.

The set time now has come
To bless Jerusalem.
14 Her stones your saints hold dear;
Her dust is mourned by them.
15 Nations will fear your name, O LORD;
All kings on earth your praise record.

16 For God will yet appear
In glorious might to reign;
The LORD in grace will build
Jerusalem again.
17 The prayers of the poor he’ll heed;
He will not spurn their cry of need.

18 Let this be written down
To teach a future race,
So people yet unborn
May magnify his grace:
19 That from his holy place above
The LORD looked down in tender love.

(Ps 102 –  from the Free Church’s Sing Psalms)

 

This is the antithesis of the prosperity gospel, triumphalist Christianity or the ‘trust Jesus and everything will be great’ memes.   It is real, hard, painful, questioning, trusting, sorrowful, hopeful Christianity.   Its life.  As we know it.  As we experience it.  As Christ experienced it for us.   Think about the words, meditate on them and rejoice that the Lord has given us such words because he knows our pain and feels our sorrows.  And he looks down in tender love!

Here is another version of the Psalm from the wonderful Australian musician Jason Coghill.

 

Sing Psalms….!

Voices in Harmony – St Peters Singing

hialeah-florida-immaculate-conception-catholic-church-hispanic-congregation-aawy35

 

 

 


8 thoughts on “The Prayer of the Weak and the Joy of Singing Psalms

  1. I confess to missing the metrical Psalms (not used in current church environment). “Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs”.

  2. When Praise! hymnbook came out, we were early adopters and I took the opportunity to have one psalm at each meeting. I also felt encouraged to do some versification of my own but I despair of ever hearing most of them sung. Here is my reflection of Ps. 102.

    suggested tune: Pater Omnium
    A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD. After Psalm 102

    LORD, hear my prayer when I am faint;
    don’t hide your face from my distress.
    Come! Swiftly answer my complaint
    of unremitting uselessness.
    Your scythe has felled me where I stood;
    I loathe my necessary food.

    Therefore my flesh clings to the bone;
    better is traded in for worse;
    socially set, I’m yet alone;
    my name’s convenient for a curse.
    My supplication, wet with tears –
    your wrath – my fightings and my fears.

    There is a God enthroned above;
    as generations have proclaimed.
    He will arise and show his love,
    for Zion’s appointed time is named.
    His servants hold her stones in trust;
    he still has pity on her dust.

    Rulers below, with reverence, fear.
    Jehovah builds his glorious home;
    recording destitution’s prayer
    for generations still to come –
    singers of praises yet to be
    and God who condescends to see.

    From heaven he hears the prisoners’ plight;
    liberates those once doomed to die;
    so, peoples gather on the height,
    that they may praise the LORD most high.
    Though strength be broken halfway there,
    God of completion, hear my prayer.

    Enduring generations through,
    Maker of earth: you make it spin.
    Peoples all perish, not so you,
    they all wear out but you remain.
    You are the same, your years no fewer;
    in you my reasons are secure.

    Yours,
    John/.

    1. Thanks John – for me the reason I hesitated in getting the Praise book was the fact that it had the psalms at the beginning – a great idea but they were of variable quality and we already had our own!

  3. A wonderful reflection, thanks for sharing.
    Would that Psalms were sung more often. In our Anglican church we sing (chant) psalm 95 and 100 quite regularly but the other 148 remain largely forgotten.

  4. My short ,earlier ,comment didn’t mention that what you wrote was important and much needed, perhaps more so than the singing

    Having personally faced death I’ve subsequently been able to sing Mat Redman’s song with some gusto. But I’ve just received a phone call from a friend in a hospice who is extremely weak and after an emergency admission, from there, to an acute hospital, has said he has had enough. Another friend was admitted as an emergency, during the night, this week.

    May they both have the “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is theirs, that there is a glory divine, that they are heirs of salvation, purchased of God, born in His Spirit, washed in His blood”

    And from John K’s contribution

    “Though strength be broken halfway there,
    God of completion, hear my prayer.”

  5. I genuinely don’t understand churches that don’t sing psalms
    I’m not sure that understanding would help you that much, David, but it would certainly help those churches who don’t sing psalms but should, if they could understand the reasons they don’t. Many sing far more than they think — Christian Hymns lists 105 psalms and hymns based on psalms — but some people are cagey about anything other than the AV being called Scripture. Exclusive psalmody is basically defensive but the way to introduce psalm singing to a hymn singing congregation is one psalm at a time, inclusively.

    I think for me I would find it almost impossible to go to a church that did not use the hymn book that God has given us.
    It does seem to be hard to strike a balance here since men impressed that they should sing psalms tend to believe that they should only sing psalms. Even in London, most Englishmen would have to travel many miles to find an exclusive psalmody church and besides those who travel there are others who endure the hymn singing while making sure that everyone else has to endure their glum demonstration that they are not singing.
    Thanks for raising the banner of inclusive psalmody.

    Yours,
    John/.

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