How Are the Psalms Used in Worship Today?

Paul Tambrino, EdD, PhD

Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino


Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.

Question #40 – How Are the Psalms Used in Worship Today?

The Book of Psalms is used extensively in Hebrew and in many Christian worship services.

Psalms serve as the backbone of the Hebrew prayer book (siddur). The traditional Friday evening Sabbath service starts with six Psalms (95-99 and 29) to represent the six days that have passed since the end of the preceding Sabbath.

Psalm 145, known by Jews as Asbrei (“happy”) is recited three times daily during the morning and afternoon prayer services.“The Book of Psalms is used extensively in Hebrew and in many Christian worship services.”

The Asbrei verse itself is found in Psalm 84:5; “Blessed (happy) is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.”

The Hallel prayer, recited on most Jewish holidays and at the beginning of each month (Rosh Chodesh), comprises Psalms 113-118.

Because of its insistence on a believer’s eternal repose with God, Psalm 23 is often recited at funerals.

Personally I find Psalm 139 to be the most beautiful. It deals with predestination and three great attributes of God: His omniscience, His omnipresence, and His omnipotence. Clearly God is the object of this great psalm (hymn) of praise.

The biblical Psalms were meant to be sung. In the Temple, some Psalms were recited with musical accompaniment; specifically Psalm 4 begins with an instruction to the musical leader: “To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments.”“Today some Protestant churches sing only psalms and many of our hymns and contemporary Christian songs are based on the Psalms.”

A common theme expressed in the Book of Psalms is the request that God involve Himself more actively in fighting evil people, particularly Israel’s enemies.

At the time of the Reformation in central Europe, Christians sought to recover a place for the laity in the liturgy of the church.

The best way to do this, they believed, was to render the biblical Psalms in the language of the people set to singable tunes.

Today some Protestant churches sing only Psalms and many of our hymns and contemporary Christian songs are based on the Psalms.

Many churches use passages from the Psalms as a call to worship and have responsive readings taken from the Psalms.

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