In a chapter called “The Meaning of the Psalms,” the Coptic monk Matthew the Poor writes, “the Psalms transform the state of sorrow in our hearts into a state of prayer.” (See his book, Words for Our Time.)
He continues, “Once you begin a psalm and detect the touch of the Spirit, you will know it to be an inward call to prayer, as well as permission from heaven to speak before God.”
Many inspired songs, hymns and spirituals work in much the same way.
They give us permission to speak in a certain way, and the best songs give us the words to use, when we can’t seem to find the right words ourselves.
One of my favorite spirituals is called “I’m Going To Tell God All of My Troubles.” I especially admire the version by the soprano Beatrice Rippy, who is accompanied by her husband Carroll Hollister on the piano.
“I’m going to tell God all of my troubles when I get home,” Rippy sings. “I’m going to tell him the road was rocky.”
A friend can speak to a friend with this kind of honesty and directness.
The singer finds her footing through knowing and believing that God is a friend like this, one she can tell her troubles to. She responds to him generously, “I’m gonna live so God can use me, ‘til I get home.”
Today we bring you a variety of psalms and psalm-like songs, from U2, to Ralph Vaughan Williams, to an Aramaic chant, to our own missionaries, even a song of my own from a few years back. Perhaps one of these will resonate with you, but if the first song doesn’t, just move on to the next one, as Matthew the Poor advises us to do with the Psalms:
“You pass by one psalm, then another, until you arrive at a particular one that arouses your soul, and an inner stirring occurs, mingled with great joy.”
May you find great joy today in psalms and in song.
In Christ, Sean Connolly