Psalm 13

Songs of Anger and Lament

This service was inspired by and incorporates many of the suggestions from Dr. John Witvliet’s article “The Psalms of Anger: Is There a Place for Anger in Worship?” (p. 35). This service uses Psalm 13 as a guide, moving from anger and lament to professions of faith and trust. Psalm 13 appears three times in this service, with more of the psalm read each time. Consider using three different individuals to serve as readers to give diverse expressions to the psalm.

As I was reflecting on Psalm 13 I wondered about that pivot point occurring in so many psalms between despair and hope, anger and praise. How is it that the psalmist is able to move from one to the other? How are both held in tension? These questions became the foundation of the message and the purpose for examining David’s faith as expressed in 2 Samuel 7.

It should be noted that different communities and individuals experience different occasions that give rise to anger. This service provides the opportunity for you to be specific in voicing those complaints and prayers.

Music and song reside close to our emotions and give expression to them. It is no wonder that anger and lament find their way into music. Still, many of our worshiping communities have not provided space for such songs of anger or lament to be expressed. But if we as a covenant community want to have an honest, authentic relationship with our Lord and Savior, we need to sing songs of lament as well as songs of praise. We need to provide the context for our anger, setting it properly within the larger gospel narrative that promises freedom. We need to name our anger, fears, laments, and griefs in order to hand them over to God, who holds all things in God’s hands. Then in obedience to God, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, we continue to work for justice and healing in this world.

For each portion of the service I have included song options from multiple musical styles, from traditional hymns to rap, from gospel to folk. Choose one or more in each section. While you don’t want the whole service to be full of unknown songs, don’t be afraid to challenge your congregations to sing something new—maybe even something with a text that will stretch you. If there is a text you find particularly appropriate for your context but you don’t want to sing it, consider having someone recite it like a poem.

Whatever you do, do not rush the service. If yours is a church where folks get antsy when a service runs longer than an hour, make sure to have this service at a time where there is some freedom to go beyond that. Invite folks to set aside their clocks and turn off their cell phones to allow the Spirit to do what the Spirit wills. Take as much time as needed to name the anger and pain, spend significant time in prayer, and allow for times of silence.

To communicate the service’s movement visually, adjust the lighting from dim to full as the service progresses.

One additional note regarding singular and plural pronouns: While normally I shy away from using singular pronouns in corporate worship, there were times in this service where I felt the singular was much more powerful and reflected the singular pronouns used in Psalm 13. Feel free to make them plural if that is a stumbling block for folks in your community.

Prelude
If you are singing any unfamiliar songs in this service, you may wish to include them as part of the prelude to give those gathered an opportunity to hear the melody before they are invited to sing later in worship.

Call to Worship
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
      the Maker of heaven and earth.
Lord, I believe,
help my unbelief.

—Psalm 124:8; Mark 9:24 (NKJV)

God’s Greeting
But now, this is what the Lord says—
      the one who created and formed you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
      I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When I pass through the waters,
      I will be with you;
and when I pass through the rivers,
      they will not sweep over you.
When I walk through the fire,
      you will not be burned;
      the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
      the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
—Isaiah 43:1–3, 5, adapted

Opening Prayer: A Prayer of Distress
God—are you really there?
It seems so long since I have felt the comfort of your presence
And even longer since I have experienced the assurance of your blessing.
I do not like the thoughts in my own heart, let alone the words of my enemies.
Come, Lord Jesus, to this dark place in me.
Let me know the joy of your presence again.
With you, I have all I need.
Help me to want nothing else.
—Paul Detterman, 2011, © Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Sung Prayer
“Our Song in the Night” Van Patter, Bifrost Arts
“Illuminate the Shadows” Zach, Wardell, The Porter’s Gate
“Drive Out the Darkness” Zach, Wardell, The Porter’s Gate
“Christ, Be Our Light” Farrell, LUYH 908, GtG 314, SSS 242
“Beams of Heaven” Tindley, LUYH 454, PsH 577
“Dans nos obscurités / Within Our Darkest Night” Taizé, LUYH 417, GtG 294, SSS 300
“Quédate con nostros / Stay with Us, Holy Savior” Veneziale, SSS 296
“Where Are You in the Storm” Hargreaves, Resound Worship
“My God, My God, Why (Psalm 22)” Vermeulen-Roberts, The Psalms Project

Anger and Lament

“As we hear now these words of protest and anger, call to mind all the people around us and among us who are living with these emotions today” (Witvliet, p.36). In solidarity with them, or as an expression of our own anger and lament, we ask:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
      How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
      and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
      How long will my enemy triumph over me?
—Psalm 13:1–2

Optional: At this point in the psalm, add “How long” questions that are relevant to your own context and give expression to the anger of your community. These could be prepared beforehand and spoken by a leader, individuals can be invited to voice them aloud, or those gathered could spend some time in silence to reflect on their questions, write them, or express them visually.

Songs of Anger and Lament Based on Psalm 13
“How Long, O Lord, Will You Forget” Woollett, GtG 777, PfAS 13D
“How Long?” Wardell, Bifrost Arts
“How Long Will You Forget Me?” Idle, LUYH 410, PfAS 13B
“How Long, O Lord, How Long” Stuempfle, LUYH 291
“Psalm 13” Wilhelm
“How Long, O Lord” Doerksen, PfAS 13C
Consider using this song throughout the service, singing up to the first repeat after the first two readings of Psalm 13 and adding the second half after the third reading.

Other Songs of Anger, Protest, and Lament
“We Will Make No Peace with Oppression” Alattas, Vice, Zach
“Justicia” Williams and Wardell, The Porter’s Gate
“Hear the Song of Our Lament” Ying, Resound Worship
“Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” Traditional
“I’m Gon’ Stand” Sweet Honey in the Rock

Intercession

Scripture Reading
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
      How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
      and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
      How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
      Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
      and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

—Psalm 13:1–4

Sung Response
“Rise Up!” Wardell, Bifrost Arts
“Can the Dead Rise Up to Praise?” Juby, Bifrost Arts
“Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” Crosby, LUYH 422
“Jesus, Lover of My Soul” Wesley, LUYH 424, GtG 440, PsH 578
“En tu misericordia danos paz / Lord, in Your Mercy, Give Us Peace” Oberman, SSS 313
“Purge Me” Hurst, Palmer, Urban Doxology
“Come, Deliver Me” Kim, Runderburgh, Proskuneo

Prayer with Optional Sung Refrain
During this time, as John Witvliet suggests in his article,“offer a prayer that names particular sources of injustice, violence, pain, and bitterness in the world around us” (p. 36).

Do not rush this time of prayer. Allow for moments of silence. Multiple prayer leaders could participate. You could also introduce this time of prayer by reading headlines from current news stories.

Sung Refrain: “O Lord, Hear My Prayer” (first stanza only) Taizé, LUYH 903, GtG 471, SSS 311

Interlude: God's Response

Scripture
2 Samuel 7

Message: “The Interlude”
What happens between verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 13? How is the author able to pivot? David is able to give voice to his anger and lament and declare his faith in God because of the larger context of his life. That larger context is summarized in 2 Samuel 7:

  1. Remembering what God has done in the past:
    “I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt” (vs. 6)
  2. Remembering God’s promises especially “rest from all your enemies” (vs. 11)
  3. Testimony of the individual and/or community: vs. 22–23, the gift of Nathan the prophet
  4. Faith in the coming Savior, the one who will establish the kingdom forever (vs. 11–16, 25–27)
  5. Hope (vs. 28–29)

Song of Response
If earlier in the service you invited people to write their “how long” questions or express them visually, invite them to bring their papers to the front to be disposed of or ripped up, or remain in their seat and draw a cross over them as an expression of faith and hope in our Lord and the promise of new life.

“Victory Belongs to Jesus” Dulaney
“Break Every Chain” Reagan, Cobbs
“His Eye Is on the Sparrow” Martin, LUYH 441, GtG 661, SSS 322
“The Seed Must Fall” Hardy

Scripture
Hebrews 4:14–16

Prayer with Optional Sung Refrain
During this time pray specifically for the faith and hope to continue and the ability to find joy even in difficult times. Pray too that our lives may be living testimonies, reflecting a boldness that comes from the surety of Christ’s victory over death itself.

Sung Refrain: “O Lord, Hear My Prayer” (second stanza only) Taizé, LUYH 903, GtG 471, SSS 311

Profession of Faith

Scripture Reading
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
      How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
      and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
      How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
      Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
      and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
      my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
      for he has been good to me.

—Psalm 13

Songs of Faith and Trust
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” Johnson, LUYH 44, GtG 339, SSS 36
“We Believe in the Name” Wardell, Vice, The Porter’s Gate
“Total Praise” Smallwood, LUYH 420, SSS 329
“The Lord Is My Light” Bouknight, LUYH 431
“Vancerá el amor / Love Shall Overcome” Colón, SSS 286
“Que no caiga la fe / Never, Never Lose Faith” Páez, SSS 315
“Why Are You Downcast (Be Still My Soul)” Pagnam/Resound Worship
“Sing Hallelujah to the Lord / Lift Up Your Hearts unto the Lord” Benjamin, LUYH 844, PsH 309, SSS 685
This is not a song one might associate with protest, yet it became a significant part of the protest movement in Hong Kong.

The Lord’s Supper

Sending
1 Corinthians 15:50–58

Optional Closing Songs
“Your Labor Is Not in Vain” Kimbrough, Wardell, The Porter’s Gate
“O Jerusalem” Wardell, Thompson, The Porter’s Gate
“Sizohamba naye / We Will Walk with God” Swaziland traditional, LUYH 931, GtG 742, SSS 719
“Canto de esperanza / Song of Hope” Spanish traditional/Mitchell, LUYH 941, GtG 765, SSS 721
“Walk the Talk” Ward, New City Hymnal
“Arrive” Massey, Common Hymnal
“Let Us Be Known by Our Love” Massey, Flanigan, Common Hymnal, RW 127:28

Blessing
As you leave this place this day,
may God’s love sustain you,
and may you love those who surround you.
May God’s Spirit empower you,
and may you empower all those you meet.
May God’s joy fill your hearts,
and may this joy overflow
to the ends of the earth for God’s glory,
now and forever. Amen.
—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, © 2004, Faith Alive Christian Resources. 9.2.18

Doxology
“To God Be the Glory” Crouch, LUYH 956

Lead sheets for songs by The Porter’s Gate can be found in the dropbox at www.theportersgate.com with the understanding that they are to be used only with a valid copyright license or permission.

Joyce Borger, an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.