Benefits of Singing the Psalms in Worship

By Jonathan Jones
September 08, 2022

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For good reason, the book of Psalms is often referred to as the hymnal of Israel. Indeed, the text of the Psalms were sung by Godís people and have continued to be utilized in corporate worship contexts for centuries. Christians have widely used the Psalms for musical worship even since the early church. Prior to metered singing, chant became the medium through which psalms were employed in worship. The first book published in the United States was the Bay Psalm Book, a psalter which contained Psalms for singing. Congregants would have been familiar with the standard tunes and simply set the text to one of those metric tunes. The practice of Psalm-singing, however, has diminished in recent years, although there is great benefit from singing the Psalms in worship. As a worship leader, I employ the Psalms often. In my local church, the Psalms are both sung and spoken. While the musical setting of the Psalms might take a contemporary form, the text and purpose remains the same as the church throughout her history. I would like to discuss the incredible benefits of singing the Psalms in worship, benefits that many worship leaders neglect or do not realize. There are five overarching benefits I see that will arise from Psalm-singing in a churchís local worship services.

By Singing the Psalms, the Church Learns Scripture

Based on experience and existing research, we should agree that it is easier to learn songs than prose. Parts of the human brain function better when singing than when reading or speaking. We could certainly apply this to other scriptures, not just the Psalms; I am focused on the Psalms for this purpose though. By singing the text of the Psalms, we are (perhaps subconsciously) learning the scriptures. Some people are better at memorizing Scripture than others; yet, singing the Psalms allows us to not only worship but to also memorize the text while worshiping. It is, thus, cognitively beneficial to sing the Psalms in worship.

There Is a Theological Benefit to Singing the Psalms

Another reason to sing the Psalms in worship is that it is virtually impossible to sing bad theology when the Psalms are sung verbatim. The Psalms are part of the canon of Scripture; therefore, singing the text of the Psalms ensures that we are singing the inspired word of God rather than someone elseís interpretation of the word of God. Singing the Psalms in worship then is theologically beneficial.

Singing Personalizes the Psalms

A third incentive I would give for singing the Psalms in worship is the biblical text becomes personal when it is sung. The words of the psalmists were sung by Godís people in worship from centuries ago and beyond. By singing the Psalms today, the text is effectively personalized. The biblical records we have do not include the tunes but rather the text. I believe this is because the words are holy rather than the tunes. In singing the words of the Psalms, we are able to connect with saints of the past and express the very same attitudes, spirits, and emotions as they yet in our own mode through the tunes we employ. The truths of the Psalms remain; yet, they become deeply personal to us when we express and sing them in our own way. In singing the Psalms, we become uniquely connected to saints of the past yet in our own personal way.

Singing the Psalms Teaches Us How to Pray

I would also suggest that singing the Psalms teaches us how to pray. Indeed, even merely reading the Psalms accomplishes the same feat. The Psalms, in their manifold variations, are often types of prayers. An advantageous way to learn how to pray is to model our prayers after the Psalms. Whether we are praying prayers of supplication, thanksgiving, imprecation, praise, or any other form in which our prayers might manifest themselves, the book of Psalms is an excellent model. As we sing the Psalms, we are praying; we are partaking in a dialogue between ourselves (the church) and triune God. If the psalmists and the people of Israel prayed the Psalms, would it not be beneficial for us to do the same? I submit that the prayers found in the Psalms cannot be mistaken. We benefit from singing the Psalms by learning how to pray.

Singing the Psalms Expresses the Epitome of the Entire Bible

Finally, the Psalms encompass themes, stories, and really the heart of the entire Bible. The epitome, the message, and indeed the very essence of Scripture may be summed in the Psalms. Thus, when Godís people sing the Psalms, the very nature of Godís word is declared. The joy and frustrations of Godís people are expressed, and the pure delight and satisfaction found only in God is proclaimed. Singing the Psalms then has been beneficial for the church throughout the centuries and is beneficial for the church now. In a deep connection with Godís people throughout the churchís history, by singing the Psalms, we are able to faithfully proclaim the story of God in worship and yet sing timeless truths in our own unique manner. It is good and right then to sing the Psalms. Let us, therefore, devotedly and unapologetically sing the Psalms with vigor, with excitement, and with joy as we worship our sovereign and saving God who loves his covenanted people.

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