The following article, along with parts 2 and 3 to be published in later issues, though not typical for Reformed Worship, is well worth spending some time on. Pastors, musicians, and worship planners alike can benefit from considering the pairing of text and tune and the challenges that arise from a plethora of choices. In addition, several denominations are in the process of developing new hymnbooks for congregational song.
A colleague and friend once described a game she played with her children. They called it “I’ve got a song for that.” It was an opportunity to nurture in her kids a repertoire of songs for times of joy or sadness.
Am I really supposed to pray like this? That is the question I kept asking myself when I first started praying through the psalms. I tried to make the prayers “my own” but found that I could not. I tried to pray through the psalms in their totality—their joy, anger, praise, lament, exultation, despair, longing, and hope—but it was just too much for me. I wanted these prayers to echo through the depths of my heart. I tried praying through the psalms in a week, in a month, in three months.
The biblical heading for Psalm 102 is “The prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.” In the honest and vivid language typical of the psalms, the writer expresses a cry of pain and desolation, coupled with a poetic and, strangely, almost clinical description of the emotions, thoughts, and physical symptoms of a dying person. So how might we use this psalm in pastoral ministry and worship?
I suggest using the adaptation of Psalm 102, found on the next page, in at least two pastoral settings.
My quest to understand the psalms of lament began in the midst of a deep period of depression. I had spent a wonderfully rich two months in Ethiopia, recording Christian Somali music for broadcast from Ethiopia over Somalia. During my time there I received numerous “prophetic words” that doors would open for me when I returned to Canada. But within a few short months of my return I was unemployed and living in the basement of a friend’s parent’s house. My familial home had burned down and a friend of mine had committed suicide.