Last night, I submitted a paper titled: “HOW DO THE PSALMS PROVIDE LIFE-LONG SPIRITUAL FORMATION AND GROWTH?” Some brief thought below.
Dallas Willard describes spiritual formation as follows:
…the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such as way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ.Willard, Dallas. 2015. The Great Omission. New York NY: Harper Collins.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus comes to mind, and spiritual renewal as it is mentioned in the Epistles. Spiritual formation makes us image-bearers of Christ – more and more.
Do the Psalms play a role in the process of spiritual formation?
- Church Father Ambrose said that the Psalms soften anger, release anxiety, alleviate sorrow, provide protection at night, give instruction by the day, are a shield in times of fear, a feast of holiness, the image of tranquility, and unite.
- Church Father Basil said: “Psalms create grief which is in accordance with God’s will, for a psalm brings a tear even from a heart of stone.”
- Church Reformer John Calvin called the Psalms the “Anatomy of the Soul.”
- The preacher Charles Spurgeon lists descriptions of the Psalms: the School or Patience, The Soul’s Soliloquies, The Anatomy of Conscience, the Rose Garden, the Paradise of Devotion, The Map of Experience, the Heart of Scripture, the Spokesman of Feelings.
- Reverend Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Psalms “the Prayer-book of the Bible.”
- Musician Boudewijn Zwart referred to the Psalms as the “Pharmacy for our Spiritual Life.”
Why do we sing Psalms?
- “Our first-generation ministers forced the Genevan tunes on our churches.”
- “We have to sing Psalms because the Church Order enforces it.”
- “We have to sing Psalms because the tradition is too important.”
- “We have to sing Psalms because Synod is slow to change.”
- “We have to sing Psalms because of some Psalm-activists in our churches.”
- “We have to sing Psalms because of bible texts.”
- “We HAVE to sing Psalms because…”
These point indicate that we sing Psalms out of extrinsic motivation.
When singing Psalms out of intrinsic motivation, we can articulate that Psalm singing plays a critical role in our faith-life:
- we treasure psalm-singing,
- psalms provide comfort in our grief,
- express our joy and thankfulness,
- grow our faith,
- guide a closer relationship with God,
- connect Jesus’ emotions with our emotions,
- cause us to better understand God and our salvation,
- grow our fruit of the spirit,
- and much more.
It can be refreshing to hear a non-Reformed perspective. Michael Walters was raised in a revivalist congregation. After discovering the Psalms he says:
“Whenever the Psalms praise God, they praise Him for some reason-because of what He has done or will do. The acts of God are the proper focus of our worship. Nothing should be allowed to replace that content in our services-not our feelings, our ambition, or, worst of all, our acts of righteousness. It is God’s redemptive work that we celebrate. The content of worship is nonnegotiable.”Walters, J. M. 2006. Can’t Wait for Sunday: Leading Your Congregation in Authentic Worship. Fishers IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.