Those of you who know me in real life probably already know that I attend a church that sings the Psalms exclusively in worship. For those of you who don't know me as well, I thought I would share a little more today about why I sing the Psalms as well as some of the resources my church uses in worship and I use for personal devotions and worship. These are a few of the personal reasons I sing the Psalms but it is by no means an exhaustive list. A couple of excellent books that explore this subject more extensively include Singing the Songs of Jesus: Revisiting the Psalms by Michael LeFebvre and War Psalms of the Prince of Peace by James E. Adams.
1. I sing the Psalms because I need to. The Word of God was given to us as a light into every aspect of our life, from our words, actions, thoughts, and even our emotions. I like to think of the Psalms as the part of Scripture that instructs our emotions. It’s not always easy to know how to respond in times of confusion, pain, loss, grief, and deep sin. Moreover, I think it’s too easy to feel like these are areas of our life where God is absent and far off. But the Psalms instruct us differently. The Psalms show us that these darkest moments in our life are so often when God is nearest (Psalm 22, 42, 51). And they don’t stop there. So many Psalms also reflect moments of joy, praise, thankfulness, and abundance (Psalm 118, 136, 145). For every circumstance in life, for every downfall, loss, or mountaintop experience, God has given us a song to sing.
2. God gave us the Psalms to sing. It only makes sense that if God stuck a big book of songs in the middle of his Bible, he didn’t intend for us to simply read them. Reading the Psalms is great. We should read, meditate on, and study them. But we should also sing them, because that’s what you do with songs.
3. The Psalms are the songs of Jesus. Christians do not often equate the Psalms as being the songs of Jesus, which I find strange, because if we read the New Testament we see that the apostles frequently cite the Psalms in reference to Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-41, Hebrews 1). It’s understandable that some of the Psalms make Christians feel uncomfortable, especially the songs calling down judgment on God’s enemies. We as Christians understand that vengeance is the Lord’s (Romans 12:19). We know that it’s not our calling to go out and destroy God’s enemies and wreak violence on this earth. But we also need to remember that Christ will come in judgment and that he fully intends to right every single wrong on this earth. The Psalms containing violent imprecations might make us feel uncomfortable, but to the persecuted church suffering from gross injustice and cruelty, these are songs of desperate hope. They are a reminder that God is present in the injustice and persecution and that he never forgets or abandons us.
Besides, I’m not sure that Christianity is about making us feel comfortable all the time...
4. Resources for singing the Psalms. In regular worship my congregation uses The Book of Psalms for Worship which can be purchased in several different formats at Crown & Covenant Publications. This book contains arrangements of the Psalms set to meter and four-part vocal harmony in a format similar to a hymnal. Prefacing each Psalm selection is a New Testament reference that ties in with the meaning of the Psalm. There is also a mini-edition of this book of Psalms that is great for travel and personal use. The mini-editions also come in different colors, including green and purple. I have put a lot of miles on my mini-edition and still utilize it on a regular basis. I also recently received a complimentary edition of the words-only Psalter from Crown & Covenant. It contains the Psalms translated into meter, just like the Book of Psalms for Worship. I would be curious to know if anyone else is familiar with this edition? I personally prefer to have a Psalter with the four-part harmony in worship, but I can see how a words-only edition might be helpful for people who have bad eye-sight and need the words to the Psalms printed in large font.
See all editions of The Book of Psalms for Worship here.
There are also albums containing recordings of the arrangements from The Book of Psalms for Worship. The latest of these is Deliverance, performed by Tim and Lori McCracken and their daughter Kaylee Parish. I've been enjoying listening to this album as it contains a mixture of Psalms I am closely familiar with as well as arrangements that are new to me but still beautiful. These recordings are a wonderful way to grow more familiar with these particular arrangements of the Psalms. Another favorite recording of mine is Faithfulness, performed by Tim McCracken and his daughter Kaylee. You can view these albums and all the other recordings at the following link. Psalter.org is also a fantastic resource for familiarizing yourself with the different arrangements and tunes in The Book of Psalms for Worship. This website provides recordings of the tunes for each and every Psalm selection.
Are you familiar with The Book of Psalms for Worship? How have the Psalms influenced your life?