The book of Psalms is a beloved book of the Bible. Most of us have a favorite psalm—or many! One of the reasons we love the psalms is that they express the whole array of human longings and emotions. There are prayers of deep devotion and faith, of longing to be in God’s presence, of assurance in the goodness of God, and trust. The psalmists wrote prayers of brokenness, repentance, and confession. But we also see prayers in the psalms of joyful praise and thanksgiving. There are cries for justice and judgment. There are petitions for help in all kinds of circumstances! The whole array of faithful prayers and real emotions are in the book of Psalms.
It is easy to see the poetry and the prayer and the real life in Psalms. Many of you have used Psalms to help you pray. When you didn’t know what to say, Psalms gave you words.
What we sometimes forget is that these prayers and praises were originally a hymnbook. They were written so the gathered people of Israel could sing them together. They are intensely personal, but they are also meant to be communal and musical.
We don’t have the original melodies that the psalms were sung to, but we do have many songs and hymns that use words from the psalms. Fortunately God’s people throughout the ages have written new songs and new melodies that we can pray in song. The people of God have always been a singing, praying people!
So when we sing our songs of worship, we are really praying and proclaiming together. The music helps us all be on the same page at the same time. The fact that we raise our voices together reinforces our connection as worshippers of the same God, and it gives some real, holy energy to our worship and prayer. We help one another by singing these prayers!
More than that, music actually has the power to bring up emotions that go along with the words we say. Even without words we know a joyful song, a powerful song, a soaring song, a somber song! The melodies, the keys, the rhythms, even the changes in volume, can help us to express and experience these prayers in a way that we couldn’t without music.
That’s why we are told to sing our prayers in Psalms. Twenty-five times Psalms tells us to sing a new song to the Lord. Psalm 149 says, “Praise the Lord, sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! For the Lord takes pleasure in his people!” The Lord takes pleasure in hearing you sing these prayers!
Ephesians 5:18-20 tells us to be “filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So when you sing in a worship service the next time, think of it as praying in song. Think of it as a time to encourage one another and also a time to connect intimately with the God who delights to hear us pray and praise in song.
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