Sing His Praises Joyfully!

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My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and chant praise.
Awake, O my soul; awake, lyre and harp! 
I will wake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O LORD,
I will chant your praise among the nations.
For your mercy towers to the heavens, 
and your faithfulness to the skies.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God; 
above all the earth be your glory!
– Psalms 57(56):8-9, 10-12

The Psalms are a collection of hymns and prayers that cover the gamut of human experience. They are attributed to King David, the chosen one of God who never-the-less was a flawed human being. He fell, but he picked himself up in and through the tender mercy of God. It is through his line that the Savior, Jesus, the Christ, would come into the world.

Because David was a human being like ourselves, his prayers were born out of his experiences. It is obvious that in the psalm above he is experiencing an intense moment of joy. We have had these moments too. They are those serendipitous times when we are suddenly aware of the beauty of the world, a particularly colorful sunrise, or sunset, the moment when we suddenly realize that we are truly loved by another. We are often struck dumb in those moments. The experience is so profound that we cannot find words for it, except in the depths of our transcendent souls.

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David was able to find the words here in this powerful and beautifully expressed prayer of thanksgiving. Yet even it is only a weak hint of the joy that only the soul can know intimately. Still, this is a prayer spoken from one who is loved, to the One Who Is Love. Ignatius of Loyola wrote once, “The heart of prayer is to speak to Jesus as your friend.” Here, in this psalm of David, we see David talking to God as his friend, his intimate friend. David has recognized the greatness of God and that God showers that greatness on all of creation. David’s soul has been awakened and he feels the overwhelming desire to “wake the dawn,” to “give thanks to you among the peoples,” to “chant your praise among the nations.”

He has experienced the towering mercy of God. He has felt the unlimited faithfulness of God and he wants to shout his surprise, his wonder, his praise with abandon. This is a man who has been knocked to his knees by the reality of God’s presence, in his life, and in the world around him. He can not hold his wonder, or his joy in. He has to sing it out loud accompanied by the lyre and the harp.

David’s prayer here is a model for how we can pray too. This prayer is a prayer of joyous thanksgiving. We usually pray out of our present needs, or out of our fears. We constantly petition God for his aid and comfort. But this prayer of thanksgiving is the most genuine of prayers. It comes out of the recognition, the realization, that nothing is ours, of our own making, not even our lives. All is pure gift from our generous God. In the face of this generosity our greatest prayer is a joyous proclamation of thanks. Thanks be to God.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.