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The Psalms- Singing as Prayer

In describing the elements of public worship in the apostolic (1st century) church, Philip Schaaf lists “The SONG, a form of prayer, in the dress of festive poetry and the elevated language of inspiration.” This practice, he writes, “passed immediately, with the psalms of the Old Testament, those inexhaustible treasures of spiritual experience, edification and comfort, from the temple and the synagogue into the Christian church” (History of the Christian Church, vol. 1).

Two things are striking to me in this comment. First, is this beautiful description of the Psalms. How true! What treasures we miss when we fail to appropriate these for our singing and praying as our forebears did.

Second, singing is here seen primarily as a form of prayer. This is a common idea in Judaism, the New Testament (see Acts 16:25), and in the church for centuries. But, it has not been a common idea in my church circles along my journey. We sing to praise God, which is good and biblically based. But what do we miss by failing to consider our corporate singing- at least portions of it- as prayer? What formation do we miss by failing to see the value of prayer “in the dress of festive poetry”?

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