Psalms of Praise and Thanksgiving
Praise – 8, 19, 29, 33, 100, 103, 104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 135, 136, 145, 146, 147, 148, 140, 150
Thanksgiving – 9, 30, 34, 40, 41, 65, 66, 67, 68, 92, 107, 116, 118, 124, 138
When we see a beautiful sunrise, a work of art, or experience a moving play or liturgy, we talk about it, even when we say there are no words. There is that within us that needs to speak words of praise.
C.S. Lewis tells us: “I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. We delight to praise what we enjoy.” And we urge others to join us in praise. After our sports team wins, Facebook is full of comments as we share our momentary pleasure. “We won,” we exclaim, basking in reflected glory. How much more reason to share our joy in the Lord!
We praise God not because God needs our praise but because we need it. We need to shout from the mountain tops the wonder of God’s loving kindness.
Praise requires that we recognize who God is, God’s greatness. We have reason to pray “Holy is your name!” You would think our worship services would be filled with enthusiastic acclamations of praise but far too often our words fall flat. Our prayers become rote memorizations bereft of the power of meaning.
Praise is central to the Psalms. In Hebrew the book of Psalms is the book of Praises. Even though so much of the Psalms involve complaint, Eugene Peterson reminds us that it is the end that matters. “Any prayer, no matter how desperate its origin, no matter how angry and fearful the experiences it traverses, ends up in praise. It does not always get there quickly or easily—the trip can take a lifetime—but the end is always praise.” Often psalms of lament and complaint abruptly shift to praise at the end, as in Psalm 13. Lament gives way to praise. Often in our own lives, it is only after having made our complaints and laid it all on God’s altar that we are then able to break into praise, trusting that our God has heard our cries.
The early Christian community knew its need to praise God for the beauty of creation (8, 18, 29, 104 & 108) and for God’s providential care for his people, especially for his loving kindness (hesed) and fidelity and truth (emit). The Psalms are set up into five sections, mirroring the five books of the Pentateuch – Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy – the Torah. Each of these five sections of the Psalms ends with words of praise, doxology.
- “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from all eternity and forever. Amen. Amen.” (41:14)
- “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful deeds. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may all the earth be filled with the Lord’s glory. Amen. Amen.” (72:18-19)
- “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen!” (89:53)
- “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Let all the people say, Amen! Hallelujah!” (106:48)
- “Let everything that has breath give praise to the Lord! Hallelujah!” (150:6)
The final section explodes in a symphony of praise that starts with Psalm 145 an acrostic psalm of praise where every line begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet, creating 21 verses of praise (missing one letter of the alphabet in this particular acrostic, more on acrostic poems in the section on Wisdom Psalms). It sums up all of the proceeding psalms, yet not as you might expect. All prayer leads to praise.
This is reinforced with the following five hallelujah psalms, 146-150, each which begin with hallelujah and end with hallelujah, as all creation shouts hallelujah and we get to our feet to exclaim, “Encore, encore!” As Peterson tells us, “No matter how much we suffer, no matter our doubts, no matter how angry we get, no matter how many times we have asked in desperation or doubt, “How long?”, prayer develops finally into praise.” (p. 125)
Partnered with the Psalms of Praise are the Psalms of Thanksgiving. Cognitive psychologists know that as we think so we feel. Thinking about all that our God has done and giving thanks can raise our spirits. It’s hard to remain downcast when focusing on our blessings. Giving thanks every day can lead to an attitude of gratitude that recognizes all life as gift. Paul well knew this as he repeatedly states how he gives thanks to God for the people he writes to in his letters. We are reminded that those who are immature in prayer look at what they have and ask why they don’t have more. The spiritually mature look at all they have and says, “Thank you!”
The Eucharist is the great thanksgiving prayer of the church, thanking God for the gift of his Son. During the Eucharistic prayer, the priest recounts the history of our salvation. It is reason to give thanks not just on Sunday, but every day, as we reflect on the saving mystery of God’s love for us, a love so great that “he sent his only son.”
As you read through these Psalms of Praise and Thanksgiving, focus on all of the reasons you have to praise God and give thanks. Let the words transform you. Our God truly is an awesome God, worthy of praise and thanksgiving! Holy is his name!
Do you have an attitude of gratitude? Make an effort to reflect on all the blessings in your life every day. As you drive to work or walk into the grocery store, look at the beauty around you and give thanks to God.
Try to attend Mass on another day besides Sunday in order to participate in the great Thanksgiving. As the priest reads the words of the Eucharistic prayer, focus on thanking God for how God has worked in history and in your life.
Please share your reflections! I love hearing from you!