The Worship Quote of the Week for (01/30/2007):

Praying the Psalms: Working the Weak Side
Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is from a brand new book (I mean a BRAND NEW BOOK) that explores the use of the biblical Psalms in faithful Christian worship. I commend this volume to pastors, worship planners, and church musicians—anyone responsible for making choices about the shape and content of worship in the local Christian congregation.

Over and over again, I have been struck by how the Psalms encompass both sides of some of the most striking divisions within Christian communities today. The Psalms speak for both social justice and personal transformation: they embody hand-clapping exuberance and profound introspection; they express the prayers of both the exalted and the lowly; they are fully alive in the present, but always point to the future on the basis of the past; they highlight both the extravagance of grace and the joy of faithful obedience; they express a restless yearning for change and a profound gratitude for the inheritance of faith; they protest ritualism but embody the richest expression of ritual prayer. It's little wonder, then, that any journey into literature on the Psalms will quite quickly lead us to materials produced by neo-Puritan Calvinists, Catholic mystics, social justice activists, and charismatic worship leaders. . . .

This breadth can lead each tradition or group within the broad church to latch on to only the portions of the Psalms that match its theological emphases or preferred type of piety. At the same time, the good news is that the Psalms give each community and each believer an opportunity to work their weak sides, to develop habits and modes of prayer that do not come naturally.

Indeed, may God's Spirit use this work to help us all work our weak sides, and to grow in us a deeper faith and more robust public prayer.

— John D. Witvliet, THE BIBLICAL PSALMS IN CHRISTIAN WORSHIP: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION AND GUIDE TO RESOURCES. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007, p. xviii-xix. ISBN 978-0-8028-0767-0. This book is hot off the press and promises to be a useful resource for those who want to thoughtfully include the biblical Psalms in faithful Christian worship.

[Paul instructed the churches at Colosse and Ephesus to include "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" in their practice of sharing the riches of God's word. Certainly, the apostle intended for Christians to sing the psalter in a thorough, contemplative, and instructional manner, rather than merely to pick out the "easy" or "cheerful" Psalms. Many Psalms, of course, encourage us—almost congratulate us—for the life of faith, while numerous others "work the weak side," expressing the heart's cry of the believer who begs for God's mercy and deliverance, or who honestly exposes his or her deepest doubts and fears. "All Scripture is God-breathed . . . and is profitable for instruction in righteousness."]

Sing the Psalms. Be instructed in righteousness.

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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