If you have been around the Church for a while, you will not read Psalm 103 verse 1 without singing it. Depending on how you sing it will determine either how old you are or how long you’ve been around the Church. Some of you read it as sung in 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman, but what I hear is this:
Psalm 103 is a praise psalm, and unlike many other psalms, it never waffles into lament. Today we’re just praising God for His greatness!
I love how one writer described this Psalm,
“The language of praise dominates the opening (vv.1–2) and the closing (vv. 20–22), whereas the main body of the hymn describes the Lord in terms of what He has done and who He is. At some point, the person who praises must endow the vocabulary of praise with content. We can praise God without using the special language of praise, but we cannot long maintain the genuineness of that language without relating His being and works. In fact, the form is validated by the content. It is the relationship between liturgy and gospel. The gospel validates liturgy, not vice versa.” (An Introduction to OT Poetic Books, Bullock, 151)
If you hang around Center Point for a while you’ll hear us describe a model of prayer referred to as the A.C.T.S. prayer. It stands for adoration (describing God’s greatness), confession (agreeing with God that your sin is wrong), thanksgiving (thanking God for His blessings), and supplication (strategically praying for yourself and others). If you’re ever unsure what to say as you pray prayers of adoration, today’s psalm is a great start.
The quote above rightly states that “the person who praises must endow the vocabulary of praise with content.” This means, that a person isn’t going to sustain adoration in prayer if they pray only fluff. Let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t know what to pray in the adoration phase of the ACTS method. This is not something David struggled with—just look at the verbs in verses 3–5 describing God’s actions: pardons, heals, redeems, crowns, and satisfies.
Much of Psalm 103 describes God in legal terms—God as judge. In fact, verse 9 that the NASB translates, “He will not always strive with us,” is literally using a courtroom term speaking of carrying on a legal dispute. To my ears, verse 9 doesn’t sound like a good thing, “God won’t put up with you forever!” But in reality, it means that God will not hold your guilt against you and He’s not going to stay angry with you, not because of what you’ve done, but because of his lovingkindness (hesed).
That should impact your heart! That is the difference between what the author above describes as the relationship between “gospel” and “liturgy.” Liturgy is motion without emotion. That’s an easy trap to fall into. If, when we pray, we do so as a check box because it is something we “ought” to do, then that may be the trap of liturgy. If you find yourself saying the same prayers of adoration day after day, not in the sense of the persistent widow (Luke 18), but because you’ve run out of things to say, then that may be the trap of liturgy.
Instead of liturgy, let our hearts become so overwhelmed by the greatness of God that we find new words to describe His majesty. Take some time today to reread this psalm and adore the Lord. Whether you worship with Matt Redman or Bill Gaither, let today be a day of praise.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate