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Psalms 96:1 Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! (v.1).
For 160 years, the Free Church of Scotland has not
allowed hymns or any instrumental music to be
played or sung in their public worship. In 1843,
the Free Church split from the Presbyterian Church of
Scotland; and ever since, the Free Church has allowed
only psalms to be sung—and only to be sung a cappella.
However, a vote in an upcoming assembly for the entire
denomination might allow hymns and instrumentation to
be added to the worship mix.
At this historic gathering, the Free Church of Scotland
will be taking Psalm 96:1 quite literally: “Sing a new
song to the Lord!” For the psalmist (and for all of Israel
for whom the psalmbook of prayers and songs was
written), singing was a way of prayer. These psalms
were songs directed toward God, thus prayer. “Sing to
the Lord,” says the psalmist, “praise His name” (v.2).
The Psalms are a collection of prayers primarily
intended for God’s people to sing together. While
private prayer is necessary and good, having the entire
community lift their voices in unison to God is just as
necessary and good.
Part of the beauty of this collective prayer is that
it expresses the vibrant, creative life God is actively
nourishing within His people. This is a “new song,” an
“alive” song, a generative, blossoming, joy-filled song
(v.1). God is not distant. God is present now, active now,
stirring up new things. The community’s singing of prayers announces God’s
actions to the whole world. The Psalms allow us to “proclaim the good news that
[God] saves” and to “publish [God’s] glorious deeds among the nations” (vv.2-3).
We sing because our prayer-songs express our deepest joy, and we
want others to hear and then sing along. Let’s teach the world to truly sing.
Read Ephesians 5:15. What role does music play in this teaching?
What is the singing in opposition to—and what is it in harmony with?
What does the act of singing evoke in you, and how does this inform
your understanding of prayer? Where in your life should you be singing
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