Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

The Role of Psalms

Posted by kirkcaudle on July 8, 2011

Historically the book of Psalms played a vital role within Christianity. Psalms acted as a hymn book and voiced praises to God. However, after 1900, this changed dramatically within Christianity. J. Clinton McCann states in his book,  A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms, that:

“The language of the Psalms is hardly part of our daily lives. If we ever hear it, we probably do not recognize it. And if we do recognize it, it probably sounds to us strange and archaic. The ‘book of all saints’ has become a lost treasure” (14).

The role vital The Psalms played within Christianity might have been lost, but I wonder if that is the case within the LDS branch of Christianity. I wonder this because I am unsure if members of the church ever saw the Psalms playing a vital role within their faith in the first place. After all, we only devote one Sunday School session (about 40 mins.) every four years to study the entire Psalter!

I learned to love the Psalms as an undergraduate studying religion at a Protestant institution.  We would sing the Psalms in chapel. The only Psalms I know well are the one that I sang often during this daily required chapel sessions. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I am very glad to have had the opportunity to praise god directly through scripture via song. This is something I wish our own faith would adopt.

Do you see the Psalms playing a vital role in the LDS church, and what role do you see the Psalms playing for you personally?

4 Responses to “The Role of Psalms”

  1. RuthS said

    Sometimes we can be so intimately acquainted with a particular thing that it goes unnoticed. Many of our Hymns are based on Psalms. The 23 Psalms is the basis of three hymns The Lord is My Shepherd in two version and The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare. There are many more including Sweet is the Work, Jesus Lover of My Soul,, Guide Me to Thee, Precious Savior Dear Redeemer, Jesus Savior Pilot Me, Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord, I’m a Pilgrim, I’m a Stranger, How Gentle God’s Commands, Father in Heaven, Sweet Hour of Prayer. They do play a vital role in our hymns. They are everywhere.

    Not every Psalm is a prayer of praise. A good portion of the book of Psalms is taken up with complains and calls for justice and the destruction of the enemies of the chosen people. Their is a lot of lamenting. I doubt that most of us are familiar with the language of these particular Psalms.

    My study of the Psalms had given me a better understanding of the flavor of life during a time period when God really was the only place to turn for every needful thing. These prayers provide a perspective that highlights the importance of looking to God for solutions to our daily problems and relief from the stresses and strains of living in a time when mankind is able to treat disease and fight wars with things humans have made. It is a terrible responsibility to be mortal and think the world’s fate is in human hands. The Psalms assure us that it is alright, even necessary to remember who it is that is in charge.

  2. kirkcaudle said

    I recognize that many of our modern hymns find their inspiration within the Psalms. However, I would like to see a few of the Psalms added to the hymn book in their entirety. I find something very moving about singing actual scripture verses, and not just another person’s interpretation of those verses.

    You also bring up a good point about not every Psalm praising God. If one has not read through The Psalter then it is very easy to miss the massive amount of complaining and calls for justice.

  3. Idahospud said

    I once read the Psalms through in one sitting. Reading all of them, one right after another, wrought the spectrum of my emotions in a way that no other book of scripture has done for me, It made room for a peace that was very profound, and that stayed with me for a long time. I’ve been thinking of doing that again, and of memorizing some of them. I had read them through before, in seminary, but the piecemeal way just didn’t affect me the way that letting the whole book wash over me did. It was one of a few experiences I’ve had with the scriptures that convinced me that as helpful as Sunday School lessons can be in extracting some kind of unifying theme from a portion of scripture, there is no substitute for reading the scriptures themselves and just enjoying paying attention to what they have to say.

  4. Rameumptom said

    We make a mistake in just reading the Psalms. They are hymns, and should be sung. Secondly, many, if not all of the Psalms are connected intimately with the temple. They prepare us for the temple rites of today, by reminding us of the ancient temple rite, both having the focus of bringing us into God’s presence.

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