Worship. In two thousand years we haven’t worked out the kinks. We still struggle for the right words in prayer. We still fumble over Scripture. We don’t know when to kneel. We don’t know when to stand. We don’t know how to pray.
Worship is a daunting task.
For that reason, God gave us the Psalms—a praise book for God’s people. The Psalms could be titled God’s Book of Common Prayer. This collection of hymns and petitions are strung together by one thread—a heart hungry for God.
Some are defiant. Others are reverent. Some are to be sung. Others are to be prayed. Some are intensely personal. Others are written as if the whole world would use them. Some were penned in caves, others in temples.
But all have one purpose—to give us the words to say when we stand before God.
The very variety should remind us that worship is personal. No secret formula exists. What moves you may stymie another. Each worships differently. But each should worship.
This book will help you do just that.
Here is a hint. Don’t just read the prayers of these saints, pray them. Experience their energy. Imitate their honesty. Enjoy their creativity. Let these souls lead you in worship.
And let’s remember. The language of worship is not polished, perfect, or advanced. It’s just honest.
AUTHOR AND DATE
The book of Psalms consists of 150 individual “psalms” or “hymns” that were written over the span of a century (c. 1440–430 BC) before being compiled into the form we have today sometime during the third century BC. Most of the psalms contain a “superscription” that likely indicates the author (though, in some cases, the name might also refer to a dedication or a collection). King David is listed as the author of 73 psalms, thirteen of which are closely associated with events in his life (3; 7; 18; 34; 51; 52; 54; 56; 57; 59; 60; 63; 142). Asaph, one of David’s choirmasters, is the author of twelve psalms (50; 73–83). The sons of Korah, who served in the Temple as musicians, authored ten (42–43; 45–49; 84–85; 87), with one psalm (88) being attributed to Heman the Ezrahite, who was a leading figure in their family. King Solomon composed two psalms (72; 127), and his counselor Ethan the Ezrahite wrote one (89). The oldest psalm (90) was written by Moses. The remaining “orphan” psalms list no author.
The psalms were originally hymns meant to be sung or recited during Temple worship or on other specific occasions. They were often set to music, and many of the superscriptions contain musical notations or instructions on how they were intended to be used in worship. The psalms can generally be divided into several types: (1) psalms of praise, which express worship and admiration of God; (2) psalms of enthronement, which celebrate God’s sovereign rule; (3) psalms of Zion, which exalt Mount Zion, God’s dwelling place in Jerusalem; (4) psalms of lament, in which the author (or nation as a whole) cries out to God for deliverance from distress; (5) psalms of thanksgiving, in which the author (or nation) praises God for his acts of deliverance; (6) psalms of royalty, which deal with matters relating to earthly kings and the divine kingship of God; (7) psalms of pilgrimage, or “songs of ascent,” which the Jewish people sang when “going up” to Jerusalem for the annual festivals; (8) psalms of wisdom, which uphold the virtues of godliness and proclaim God’s rewards for righteous living; (9) psalms of the law, which extol the virtues contained in God’s law (the Torah); and (10) psalms of restoration, which look forward to the future restoration of God’s people.
I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Psalm 9:1).
Max Lucado, Life Lessons from Psalms: A Praise Book for God’s People (Grand Rapids, MI: HarperChristian Resources, 2019).