The Use of the Psalms

Over the years I have become increasingly interested in the role that the Psalms have played historically in the worship and life of Christians. Rarely in my circles does one ever hear of how central the Psalms have been in the congregational singing of the church historically or how common has been the practice of praying the Psalms. Yet, when you discover eras where these practices have been common, you typically find particularly hardy saints (e.g. the Huguenots & Covenanters). What is it in the soil of the Psalms that we are missing? Why have we paid so little attention to divinely inspired songs and prayers which can give us words for singing and praying? These are ongoing concerns of mine which will be reflected in a series of chapels at Union this Spring.

In thinking about this I was delighted this last week to purchase Solid Ground Christian Books’ recent Trilogy on the Psalms. Included are these books:
Rowland Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life (orig published 1903)
William Binnie, A Pathway into the Psalter: The Psalms: Their History, Teaching, and Use (orig. published 1870)
John Ker, The Psalms in History and Biography (orig. published 1886)

These are fascinating books. Ker’s volume goes through each Psalm in canonical order commenting on people or situations where that Psalm was used to encourage, challenge and bless. Prothero then goes chronologically through history commenting on how the Psalms were used by Christians in each period. Binnie, the longest book, deals with a number of technical issues in the Psalms, surveys their theology and then closes by examining who the church has used the Psalms over the years. These summaries of how the church has made use of the Psalms makes me yearn to make more of this great treasure.

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