C. Psalm Types and Judeo-Christian Prayer and Song

C. Psalm Types and Judeo-Christian Prayer and Song

These psalms are both songs and, in almost every case, prayers. They correct skewed or overly narrow understandings of prayer that equate “prayer” with “petition” or some other specific feature of communication with God. Prayer in the Psalter is obviously much larger than “merely” asking God for help or praising God. It includes, of course, cries for help. But prayer also includes affirmation of faith, confession of sin and need, promise of action and attitude, and thoughtful reflection on inner and outer life in the fear of the Lord. Prayer includes instruction and liturgy, wisdom and celebration, and much more.

And these are also song. Again the Psalter stands over against overly confined understandings of “sacred song.” The music of the saints here includes songs focused solely on God, his person and his works, and, just as readily, solely on the biography of the people of God, their walk with him, and their life in the world before him. Others flow effortlessly between these poles, oblivious of modern predilections for “objective” or “subjective” music. The genius of Charles Wesley's hymns in good measure was their ability to reflect this great breadth of prayer and song in the idiom of the people.