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Sermon Quotes

The Psalms

Athanasius 

[The psalms] become like a mirror to the person singing them, so that he might perceive himself and the emotions of his soul.

Athanasius

Under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls’ need at every turn.

On the Incarnation (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1977), p.104.

Basil of Ceasearea

A psalm drives away demons, summons the help of angels, furnishes arms against nightly terrors, and gives respite from daily toil; to little children it is safety, to men in their prime an adornment, to the old a solace, to women their most fitting ornament. It peoples solitudes, it brings agreement to market places. To novices it is a beginning; to those who are advancing, an increase; to those who are concluding, a confirmation. A psalm is the voice of the Church.

Basil of Ceasearea

To novices it is a beginning; to those who are advancing, an increase; to those who are concluding, a confirmation.

Quoted in Calvin R. Stapert, A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 151.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is not our prayers that interpret the Psalms but the Psalms that interpret our prayers.

Bono

The psalmist is brutally honest about the explosive joy that he’s feeling and the deep sorrow or confusion, and it’s that that sets the Psalms apart for me. And I often think, gosh, well, why isn’t church music more like that?

Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms,” Fuller Studio, April 26, 2016.

Walter Brueggemann

The Psalms as script for the telling of secrets is fully occupied by honest women and men of faith.

Walter Brueggemann

[The Psalter] is an articulation of all the secrets of the human heart and the human community, all voiced out loud in speech and in song to God amidst the community.

Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2014).

Walter Brueggemann

The psalms, then, are for those who know that they spend much of their life hiding secrets; they are also for those who know that standing in the presence of God “is the one place where such secrets cannot and must not be hidden.

Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2014).

Walter Brueggemann

[The Psalter] is an articulation of all the secrets of the human heart and the human community, all voiced out loud in speech and in song to God amidst the community.

Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2014).

C. Hassell Bullock

The psalmist could not see himself as an individual apart from Israel. His self-identity was bound up in his participation in the community of faith.

 

John Calvin

There is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.

Cited in William L. Holladay, The Psalms Through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), p.165.

Ellen Davis

We must speak honestly—but also wisely.

Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament (Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2011)

Ellen Davis

The psalms enable us to bring into our conversation with God feelings and thoughts most of us think we need to get rid of before God will be interested in hearing from us.

Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament (Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 2011)

David F. Ford

The Psalmist’s “I” accommodates a vast congregation of individuals and groups down the centuries around the world today. They are all somehow embraced in this “I.” A vast array of stories, situations, sufferings, blessings, joys, and deaths have been read and prayed into the Psalms by those who have identified with their first person. It amounts to an extraordinarily capacious and hospitable “I.”

Self and Salvation: Being Transformed (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p.127.

John Goldingay

The Psalms make it possible “to say things that are otherwise unsayable. In church, they have the capacity to free us to talk about things that we cannot talk about anywhere else.

Psalms, Volume 1: Psalms 1–4, Baker Academic, 2006.

John Goldingay

It is unthinkable that expressing gratitude to God should be a private transaction between individuals and God. Thanksgiving is an inherently public act whereby one gives glory to God in the presence of the community for some act, and invites the community as a whole to have its faith built up.

Psalms, Volume 1: Psalms 1–4, Baker Academic, 2006.

John S. Mogabgab

If the Psalms have been a source of spiritual instruction and consolation for many seekers, they also have filled others with discomfort and bewilderment. There is an untidiness, a turbulence, an undertow of mystery in these ancient prayers.

Denise Dombkowski Hopkins

A journey through the psalms is the journey of the life of faith.

Stanley Jaki

The psalms illuminate the mind for the purpose of enkindling the soul, indeed to put it to fire. It may indeed be said that the purpose of the Psalms is to turn the soul into a sort of burning bush.

C.S. Lewis

Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry. . . . Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and think we see what is not.

Reflections on the Psalms (New York: HarperOne, 2017), 3.

Martin Luther

The Book of Psalms is full of heartfelt utterances made during storms of this kind. Where can one find nobler words to express joy than in the Psalms of praise or gratitude? In them you can see into the hearts of all the saints as if you were looking at a lovely pleasure-garden, or were gazing into heaven. . . . Or where can one find more profound, more penitent, more sorrowful words in which to express grief than in the Psalms of lamentation? In these, you see into the hearts of all the saints as if you were looking at death or gazing into hell, so dark and obscure is the scene rendered by the changing shadows of the wrath of God.

Quoted in John Witvliet, The Biblical Psalms, 39–40.

Eugene Peterson

We often imagine, wrongly, that the psalms are private compositions prayed by a shepherd, traveler, or fugitive. Close study shows that all of them are corporate: all were prayed by and in the community. . . . It goes against the whole spirit of the psalms to take these communal laments, these congregational praises, these corporate intercessions and use them as cozy formulas for private solace.

Where Your Treasure Is: Psalms That Summon You from Self to Community (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 10–11.

W. David O. Taylor

What happens when we pray the psalms under the light of God’s grace? We become free to pray with abandonment because we have abandoned ourselves to this gracious God.

The Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

 

W.David O. Taylor

Because they are the devotional poetry of a particular community, the Psalms train us to pray with others who have prayed, and are still praying. They put our knees on the level with other bent knees; they lift our hands in concert with other lifted hands.

The Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

W. David O. Taylor

The primary use of prayer, as the Psalter sees it, is not for expressing ourselves but in becoming ourselves, and we cannot do that alone. In praying the Psalms with others, then, we learn to become more and more ourselves in the company of the faithful.

The Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

W. David O. Taylor

We become whole by praying our honest joys and our honest sorrows. We pray our honest praise of God and our honest anger at God; we pray also for honest speech in our words to God.

The Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

W. David O. Taylor

When we pray the psalms by the empowering and transforming presence of the Holy Spirit, we pray not just who we actually are but also who we can be and shall be by grace.

The Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

W. David O. Taylor

 For the psalmist there is no autonomous spirituality. There is only a faith that is lived in the company of God’s people.”

The Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

Carl Trueman

The psalms as the staple of Christian worship, with their elements of lament, confusion, and the intrusion of death into life, have been too often replaced not by songs that capture the same sensibilities—as the many great hymns of the past did so well—but by those that assert triumph over death while never really giving death its due. The tomb is certainly empty; but we are not sure why it would ever have been occupied in the first place.

“Tragic Worship,” First Things , June/July 2013, p.20.

N.T. Wright

The Psalms are inexhaustible, and deserve to be read, said, sung, chanted, whispered, learned by heart, and even shouted from the rooftops. They express all the emotions we are ever likely to feel (including some we hope we may not), and they lay them, raw and open, in the presence of God.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (New York: HarperOne, 2010), p.151.

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our illustrations page on the Psalms. 

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