Praying Psalm 110 with Jesus

The first of this morning’s psalms, Psalm 110, is one of those psalms that confuses a lot of readers who don’t regularly pray the psalms.  Well heck, for all I know Psalm 110 might also confuse some of you, too.  I honestly don’t know the level of erudition among my readership here.  A bunch of you are clergymen, a bunch aren’t, but are astute readers of Scripture, so who knows.  If you already know this then pat yourself on your back and move on with your day happy in the knowledge that you Know The Thing!

Anyway, the Psalm begins with a bit of odd wordplay in the very first verse.

The Lord said unto my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, *
until I make your enemies your footstool.

Who is speaking?  Who are the two Lords?  Unless we figure that out, none of the rest of this will have any context, or make any sense.  I once asked a Bible Study group who those two lords are, and got some interesting tentative theories and guesses, but I don’t recall if anyone figured it out.  Perhaps one person did.  Honestly it is a tricky one on its own.  But if you read the Gospels, you’ll find the answer.  From the end of Matthew 22:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

So, according to our Lord, Psalm 110 is prayed in the voice of King David, who begins by speaking of the Lord (God the Father) addressing the Lord (God the Son) to sit at his right hand until victory is complete.  Reading on through the Psalm, the Father invites the Son to “rule in the midst of your enemies” which is certainly seen in the persistence of the Church throughout the world and history.  The offerings described in verse 3 are the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and most especially the celebration of Holy Communion – our most great thanksgiving (hence ‘eucharist’).  In verse 4 God the Father confirms the priesthood of Jesus, which the epistle to the Hebrews expounds throughout its middle chapters.  Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, will also judge, smite kings, and slay the wicked, as the remaining verses describe.

Psalm 110, therefore, is a celebration of Jesus as priest and king.  Around him is gathered his royal priesthood, the Church, who join him in prayer, worship, suffering, and glory.  So when you take up your Prayer Book this morning and pray or chant this psalm, consider the journey with Christ it takes you on as you celebrate, with all prayer-book-users, our glorious Lord and Savior.

Singing Simplified Anglican Chant

Ideally, both according to Prayer Book tradition as well as the general history Christian worship, the Psalms are most appropriate sung, not simply read aloud.  And when people talk about singing, that universally means chanting (until, say, the 14th century when modern European music began to emerge out of the Greco-Roman chant tradition).  Among the early Anglican Reformers, chant did get a new lease on life in the English language thanks to composers like John Merbecke, but for the most part among Anglicans the chant tradition went into hibernation in the 17th and 18th centuries, finally to re-emerge in 19th century as “Anglican Chant.”

Anglican Chant is distinct from plainchant or Gregorian chant in that it has contemporary harmonizations – a choir or congregation can chant together in four-part harmony.  Thus it utilizes the melodic simplicity of plainchant and the harmonic beauty of English hymnody.  Anglican Chant also stands distinct from ancient plainchant in that it has very little over-arching regulation on matching tunes to texts.  So there is much more room for freedom of expression, new chant tunes and combinations, and even in pointing the text (meaning, lining up the text with the notes).

Why Anglican Chant?  The singing of “metric psalms” enjoyed pride of place for those couple centuries when chant was in remission.  Metric psalms are perhaps easier for us to sing because they use familiar tunes and styles.  The downside of metric psalms, however, is that the Psalms are not written in English poetic rhythms or rhyme schemes, necessitating an entirely new translation.  This means neglect of the beautiful Psalter in our Prayer Books, less standardization of the actual translation (so the formation value is less prominent), and a much looser translation overall in order to force thousands-of-years-old poems into modern poetic styles.  If you use plainchant, or Anglican chant, you don’t have to re-translate the Psalms, but sing the text as it stands.  And to those of us who care deeply about the Word of God, that should be a very important consideration indeed!

There are videos on YouTube such as this one which can help you learn Anglican Chant.  There are also books and hymnals that have detailed written explanations.  But what I’d like to introduce you to here is Simplified Anglican Chant.  As the name suggests, this is a simpler version of the Anglican Chant you’ll hear and see in the videos and books above.

Simplified Anglican Chant is notated as four measures of music with two sets of notes each.  Each measure equals one half-verse of Psalm text.  Thus one full line of Simplified Anglican Chant equals two verses in the text of the Psalm.*  The majority of the half-verse is sung on the first note; the last ‘strong’ syllable is where you switch to the second note.

If you have the Book of Common Praise 2017, you’ll find an excellent explanation of this, complete with pictures, at “hymn” #738a.  Hymns #739-750 are twelve different Simplified Anglican Chant tunes.

Whether you have that book or not, however, you can take a look at this video I put together a little while ago.  In it, I go over some of the basics described above, and then demonstrate a few verses of Psalm 96 (which is among this morning’s appointed psalms, by the way).

The sample tune I used is not one of the twelve in the hymnal; it’s just one I vaguely remembered from when I was in a church choir nearly nine years ago.

simplified anglican chant

* From the 2017 hymnal: “But what if a psalm contains an odd number of verses rather than an even number?  Rather than finish the chant formula halfway through, which would be musically unfulfilling, the congregation can repeat the second half of the chant formula (measures 3 and 4) for the last verse of the psalm.

Psalm 67 in Evening Prayer

Since at least the 1662 Prayer Book, Psalm 67 has been an alternative option to the Nunc dimittis – the second canticle in Evening Prayer.  When Thomas Cranmer first compiled the Prayer Book, he telescoped the 7-fold daily monastic office into two: Morning and Evening, so that anyone could pray them.  The service of Evening Prayer thus ended up with the traditional Vespers (evening) canticle: the Magnificat, and the traditional Compline (night) canticle: the Nunc Dimittis.  He then appointed a psalm as an alternative to each canticle, usually with the express purpose of standing in for the canticle when the text of the canticle is found in one the day’s lessons.

Modern Prayer Books, however, following popular Anglican devotion since the beginning, bring Compline back as a minor office, and the Nunc dimittis is therefore a dual resident: it lives both in Evening Prayer and in Compline.  If you regularly pray both Evening Prayer and Compline most days, then it may be a good idea to substitute the Nunc for a different canticle, as I’ve suggested before here.

However, today may not be the day to do that.  Psalm 67 is the typical replacement for the Nunc through the majority of the year, but tonight Psalm 67 is one of the regular psalms at Evening Prayer.  So unless you want to say Psalm 67 twice in the same office tonight, perhaps it’s best you don’t use it as a canticle today!

Two Historical Psalms

Depending upon your perspective and state of mind, this might be a difficult time of month: there is only Psalm appointed both for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, but it’s a long one.  Psalms 102 through 109 are among the longest in the psalter, and unless you’re using an easier (or “watered-down” as some would say) psalter, you have to plow through the whole thing in one go.

Today it’s Psalm 105 in the morning and 106 in the evening.  Something that makes the length of these two a bit easier to manage is the fact that they’re both historical, or story-telling, psalms.  And to some degree 106 is a continuation of 105.

Psalm 105’s first 11 verses set the tone: let us give thanks to God and rejoice for his promises to (and covenant with) Abraham.

Verses 12-23 summarizing some of the patriarchal history, wandering in Canaan, through to the arrival of Joseph in Egypt, and the movement of the Israelite clans there after him.

Verses 24-37 tell of the oppression in Egypt, the call of Moses, and the exodus.

Verses 38-44 conclude the Psalm with God’s subsequent provision and guidance in the wilderness.  The overall tone of Psalm 105 is positive: it celebrates what God had done for his people, and calls us to rejoice in this memory.

Psalm 106 takes a rather different mood.  Its introductory six verses, while beginning with a call to give thanks to God, highlights God’s mercy as the reason for our thankfulness, because “We have sinned like our Fathers, * we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

Verses 7-12 repeat the exodus story, noting the unfaithfulness of God’s people, and how they didn’t really trust him until the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea.

Verses 13-31 tell of a few episodes of further unfaithfulness, as they “forgot his works” and continually complained and rebelled against Moses and their God.  A couple instances of divine judgment are poured out, culminating with the plague which was stayed by the righteous action of Phineas (cf. Numbers 25).  It’s especially fascinating to note that the phrase “it was reckoned to him as righteousness” appears twice in the Old Testament: once here, and once for Abraham’s faith.

Verses 32-46 conclude with more instances of unfaithfulness and disobedience, but God “remembered his covenant and pitied them, according to the multitude of his mercies.”  We pray, in this Psalm, that God would likewise deliver us from all our troubles, and remind ourselves to praise him forever and ever.

A regular pray-er of the Psalms is therefore well-rehearsed in these Old Testament stories, and has a ready-made application for them: exhortations to repent, to trust, to follow God.  There are other history psalms besides these two, but these are the biggest, and occupy our attentions in the Daily Offices of the 20th day of the month.  Hopefully these reflections will help you push through them if you find their length daunting!

Book Review: The Bay Psalm Book

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

Today we’re stepping outside the Anglican tradition and looking at a gem of American history.  The first book ever published and printed in North America was The Bay Psalm Book in 1640, a mere twenty years after the pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.  It has gone through many re-printings since then, and probably has some more legible successors in recent times, but I happened upon a facsimile print of the first edition, complete with blocky type and funny 17th century spelling.  On its own, it’s a cool historical curiosity.  But its actual contents have proven useful to me, and even found their way into my church’s worship from time to time.

The Bay Psalms Book is basically a psalter: all the psalms are re-translated such that they conform to common poetic meters in English such that they can be set to hymn tunes.  This book does not assign any tunes, it’s simply the text of the metric psalms.  What I have done, then, is take up some of a psalm from this book, fix up the spelling (and modernize the grammar a little if possible) and pick a tune that my congregation will know.

Psalm 67, for example (odd spelling and italics included), reads thus:

God gracious be to us & give
his blessing us unto,
let him upon us make to shine
his countenance alſo.*

That there may be the knowledg of
thy way the earth upon,
and alſo of thy ſaving health
in every nation. **

O God let thee the people prayſe,
let all people prayſe thee.
O let the nations** rejoyce,
and let them joyfull bee:

For thou ſhalt give judgement unto
the people righteouſly,
alſo the nations upon earth
thou ſhalt them lead ſafely.

O God let thee the people prayſe
let all people prayſe thee.
Her fruitfull increaſe by the earth
ſhall then forth yeilded bee:

God ev’n our owne God ſhall us bleſſe.
God I ſay bleſſe us ſhall,
and of the earth the utmoſt coaſts
they ſhall him reverence all.

* The “long s” – ſ – looks like an lowercase f, but if you look carefully it doesn’t have the horizontal line through the center.  There was a general rule when to use ſ or s, but it doesn’t seem to be strictly followed in this book.

** Twice in this psalm you have to pronounce “nations” with three syllables: na-ti-ons.  This kind of thing happens with similar words throughout the book, making it rather difficult for the modern reader to pick up on.

Now try singing that to the hymn tune AZMON (popular with the song “O for a thousand tongues to sing“).

Pretty cool, huh?  What you can do with a book like this is look up the Psalm for the Communion service on a given Sunday, check if its verses are readable and singable for your congregation, and then bring them into the worship service set to a tune they know… then they’ll both read/pray the Psalm and sing a paraphrase of it!

A note on Psalm-singing: in liturgical worship, Anglican or otherwise, the text of the liturgy is very important.  It matters what we say, and why we say it.  To mess around with the wording or translation, therefore, is not good practice.  So I would never recommend metric psalms as a replacement for the Psalmody in the Daily Office or Communion services.  Let the official psalter translation do its work.  Metric versions such as in The Bay Psalms Book can be refreshing and interesting and even beneficial at times, but should never replace the actual text of our liturgy.

The ratings in short…

Accessibility: 5/5
This book is nice and simple; there’s an explanatory introduction, the text of 150 psalms, and nothing else.  The header tells you what psalm(s) are on the page below, so you can thumb through the book quickly and easily as you search for the one your want.

Devotional Usefulness: 3/5
You have to supply the music.  You have to be able to read the imperfect print (if you get a facsimile edition) and ignore the funny spellings.  You have to figure out how to pronounce some of the words like a 17th century British colonist.  It can be done, and it can be beneficial, but much of this book just “won’t do it” for worshipers in the 21st century.  Whenever I’ve used it in my church, it’s always been limited in scope and edited for clarity of language.

Reference Value: 3/5
There are modern metric psalm translations out there, so you don’t really need to seek this one out.  This is great if you like colonial American history, or the history of bible/psalm translation, or the history of Christian worship.  The introduction provides a little insight into puritan theology of worship, too.

Learning from the Liturgy: Ascension Day

Happy Ascension Day, everyone!
Here’s what I wrote for my congregation last year about this holy day:

Leorningcnihtes boc

Ascension Day is perhaps the most under-celebrated important holiday in the calendar.  Representing one of the lines of the Creeds (“he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father”), this holiday marks a significant turning point in the Gospel story and sets the stage for how the Christian’s relationship with God is defined.  We often think of it as an awkward point between the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter) and the Descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost), but even in itself the Ascension is a major event.  What I’m setting out to do in this post is draw from the various Scriptural and traditional resources of the Church’s liturgy to explore some of the basic teachings and implications of this great and underappreciated day in the year.

The Event of the Ascension

Christ’s ascension is described in three books: Mark, Luke, and Acts.

In Mark’s Gospel…

View original post 2,092 more words

Psalm 118 Flashback

It’s the 24th day of the month, and that means Psalm 118 is on the docket for the rounds of daily prayer today.  With Eastertide well in progress this psalm may give you a bit of a flashback, as Psalm 118 plays prominent roles in Holy Week and Easter.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song, * and has become my salvation.
15 The voice of joy and deliverance is in the dwellings of the righteous; * the right hand of the Lord brings mighty things to pass.
16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted; * the right hand of the Lord brings mighty things to pass.
17 I shall not die, but live, * and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has chastened and corrected me, * but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open unto me the gates of righteousness, * that I may go into them, and give thanks unto the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord; * the righteous shall enter into it.
21 I will thank you, for you have heard me, * and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders refused * has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, * and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made; * we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Help me now, O Lord; * O Lord, send us now prosperity.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord; * we bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 God is the Lord, who has shown us light; * bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will thank you; * you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious; *  his mercy endures for ever.

The verses in blue are the parts of this Psalm appointed for Easter Day.  The verses in red are the parts appointed for Palm Sunday.  The verses in purple are appointed for both.  (Easter Saturday also repeats much of this part of the psalm too.)

The Palm Sunday (Liturgy of the Palms) portion, verses 19-29, are pretty explicit in their attribution to Palm Sunday.  “Open to me the gates” invokes the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, Jesus is “the righteous” who “shall enter” through “the gate of the Lord.”  The crowd’s cry of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” is found here, as is the prophetic line “bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar”, which is what Palm Sunday goes on to observe – the crucifixion of Jesus.

Easter Day captures the more ‘positive’ verses of this psalm.  That is the day we celebrate that the Lord “has become my salvation,” that Jesus “shall not die, but live.”  Verses 22-24, which are shared on both days, proclaim a truth Jesus attributed to himself: I am the “stone which the builders refused” (Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17), which St. Peter remembered well in his life thereafter (Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:7).  That, above all others, is “the day that the Lord has made” in which we are to “rejoice and be glad in it.”

Of course, when we’re praying this Psalm in its entirety on its own, outside the context of Palm Sunday or Easter Day, we need not let those liturgical usages of the psalm dictate the fullness of its interpretation.  But its allusions to the death and resurrection of Christ are inescapable, and the Christian must always see and acknowledge the echoes both of Calvary and the empty tomb sounding back through centuries into the words of this psalm, rebounding again to us as we pray, chant, and sing these words.

So many Psalms!

There are a lot of Psalms kicking around this time of year.  Today, Good Friday, has quite a few available to us.  In the classical Prayer Books this was one of the very few days in the year that got its own set of Psalms for the Daily Office, interrupting the 30-day cycle.

Morning Prayer: 22, 40, 54
Evening Prayer: 69, 88

Looking at the modern liturgy of our 2019 BCP, it’s not quite as heavy-handed on the Office, but the options still give a similar range:

Friday Morning Prayer: 40
Good Friday Service: 22 or 40:1-16 or 69:1-22
Friday Evening Prayer: 102

Saturday Morning Prayer: 88
Holy Saturday Service: 130 or 88 or 31:1-6
Saturday Evening Prayer: 91

You’ll notice that there is a little overlap between the Psalms offered in the primary service and the Psalms offered in the Daily Office, and a lot of overlap with the traditional Prayer Book Psalms.  Although the execution and placement has changed, it’s nice to see that the contents of our venerable tradition have not been lost entirely.

If you’re a worship planner for your congregation, you should observe that the primary worship service for Friday and Saturday in the Triduum offer three choices of Psalms… and our lectionary has a three-year cycle.  This is not presented as a rule, but it is a logical assumption that we should cycle between those three Psalms year by year.  If you want to cast an eye back to general Western tradition, the Gradual Psalm for Good Friday was from Psalm 54 and Psalm 42 for Holy Saturday, neither of which are appointed in our Prayer Book.  You could, however, add them to the Daily Office Psalmody on their proper days (the former is already there in the classical Prayer Books anyway).

Furthermore, whether you’re a worship planner or not, something anyone can do is add Psalms to the recitation of the Daily Office on one’s own.  Assuming you’re able to know what Psalm the main liturgy at church will use later today, you can fill in the other Psalm options to your recitation of the Office.  So if Psalm 69 is featuring at the Good Friday liturgy today, then consider adding Psalm 22 to Morning Prayer; perhaps you can grab Psalm 54 from the classical Prayer Books also, to add to Evening Prayer.

Same deal with Holy Saturday; take a look at the Psalms appointed, and consider how you might use up ones “left out” this year.  I mean, hey, it’s the Triduum… there’s no such thing as praying too much on days like these!

Favorite Psalm? Favorite Day of the month!

One of my favorite Psalms is number 24.  I’m not even sure I can quite put my finger on why that is, exactly.  I appreciate the entirety of creation being identified as God’s dominion in the first two verses.  I like the Q&A in verses 3 & 4 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?”  “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” – and the blessing and affirmation of verses 5 & 6.  I like the immediate repetition of verses 7 & 8 in verses 9 & 10.

It also sounds really awesome in Anglo-Saxon.  It begins Drihtnes is sio eoroþe & gefelledness hire * ymbwyrft eorðena & ælle þa ðe eærdiæþ on hieræ.Verse 7 reads: Geopeniæþ gæto eowre eældormonne & upæhebbæþ þæ ecelecæn gæto * & ingeþ se wuldorfestæ kyning.  It strikes me as one of the epic entries in the Psalter, and as a result it makes me look forward to the 5th day of the month when it normally pops up in the Daily Office.

In his book The Christian Priest Today, former Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey spends an entire (brief) chapter commenting on Psalm 37 (“Fret not yourself because of the evildoer) and that he often looked forward to the evening of the seventh day of the month because of that!  If you pray the Daily Office regularly, then you, too, can start having “favorite days of the month” as you latch on to your favorite Psalm(s).

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Psalm 24 with me today:

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, *
the compass of the world and those who dwell therein.
2 For he has founded it upon the seas *
and established it upon the rivers of the deep.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? * Or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, *
and who has not set his mind upon vanity, nor sworn to deceive his neighbor.
5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord *
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is the generation of those who seek him, *
even of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
8 “Who is the King of glory?” *
“It is the Lord strong and mighty, even the Lord, mighty in battle.”
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
10 “Who is the King of glory?” *
“The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”

Dealing with Psalm 137

It’s day 28, Evening Prayer… almost finished with the month, we’re zipping through all these short Psalms near the end of the Psalter, and then suddenly BAM! you slam into Psalm 137.

Oh it starts normally enough.  The lament of the community in exile in Babylon over the loss of Jerusalem is a sad thing; this month it is especially timely with the book of Lamentations at the same time.  How can God be worshiped away from His (destroyed) House, in the midst of a heathen land?  What will become of us if (and when!) memory fades of that glorious Temple?  Translated into Christian experience today, we see a world around us steeped in sin and ask similar questions: how long until the music of worship fades in our own hearts?  How much will we succumb to the paganizing forces in natural human culture?  Will churches and denominations continue to decline into obscurity?

Blessed shall he be who takes your children * and throws them against the stones

Wait, what? Where did that come from?  I thought this was a sad psalm, but all of a sudden it takes such and angry and sadistic turn at the end.  And it just stops there, like that’s a perfectly okay last word to have.  What does a Christian do with this?  This angry and vengeful rebuke of the Edomites who were complicit in the destruction of Jerusalem as they basically cheered the Babylonians on feels a little too extreme.  As the popular meme goes, “that escalated quickly!”

As Anglicans, we pray through the Psalter every month at least, so we really need to know how to tackle with this, lest we have a crisis of faith and biblical fidelity every month.

Reminder #1 – Vengeance is the Lord’s

Prayers for vengeance can be found in many places throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  This does not conflict with the also-biblical teaching that God is the one who avenges evil; indeed, such prayers reinforce the doctrine, putting our desire for revenge into the hands of the Just One.

In the New Testament, a new pattern emerges: prayers for mercy upon the evildoers, even as they kill the faithful.  Jesus prayed for those who arrested him and those who crucified him.  Saint Stephen prayed the same as he was stoned to death.  The readings for the Communion service on St. Stephen’s Day, by the way, highlight this interesting contrast between Old and New Testament tendencies regarding vengeance.  Regardless of whether the victim is praying for mercy or not, however, the New Testament upholds the doctrine that God will judge and avenge wrongdoing.

Reminder #2 – You can bring your anger to God

One of the frequent shortcomings in modern piety is the misunderstanding that you have to (or even just should) come to church happy.  Jesus is our lover and our joy, and therefore we must be happy in his presence.  Such an attitude can be very damaging for those who are hurting!  Thankfully there has been some popular movement toward recovering a sense of common lament before God, recognizing the pain and brokenness and drear of our lives.  But anger, I suspect, is probably not quite as readily accepted.  Wrath quickly turns to sin, as the Bible teaches, so perhaps it is understandable that we don’t have many examples of anger in the Psalms.  Psalm 109 is one of the angriest psalms besides this one.

So what about those babies dashed against the rocks?

Frankly, I hope this verse will always make you uncomfortable.  It takes a very deep and profound anger to wish such a curse on anyone.  The trauma the Judean exiles experienced – the trauma of many refugees to this day – is not an experience that most people have, and I hope you and I never do.  This verse is coming from that place of extreme pain.  It may not come from your own place of brokenness and hurt, but it does come from someone’s brokenness and hurt, and you and I are offering that pain to God with them.

Just as we pray the happy Psalms like 98, 99, and 100 whether we’re feeling joyful or not, just as we pray the penitential Psalm 51 whether we’re actually in a contrite mood or not, also do we pray Psalm 137’s profound anger regardless of the state of our own heart.
Ultimately, this psalm is one of the most helpful case studies in liturgical worship, as it puts into the mouth of the worshiping community words that likely none of us in a given church would ever say in our own extemporaneous prayers!  As rough ’round the edges as this psalm is, I thank God that it’s in the Bible.  It teaches us that we can pray even at our angriest.  It teaches how to pray with others at their angriest.  And it shows us anger that still faithfully conforms itself to the ultimate judgment of God.