The public reading of Scripture is a skill that can be developed with experience and practice. Becoming sensitive to the nature of the scriptural text and the way in which listeners hear public reading is also an important aspect of this skill development. This chapter prescribes a series of helpful approaches to Scripture reading and gives several examples for how a given passage may be brought to life through public reading.
Building on centuries of tradition, churches in almost every worshiping tradition are rediscovering the value of singing the Psalms in worship. The following article describes several possibilities for the inclusion of the Psalms in worship. The article is especially concerned with planning worship in the Reformed tradition, which has always placed a high value on singing the Psalms, but the ideas it presents can be easily applied to worship in any tradition.
The Psalms have been traditionally sung two ways in worship, to metrical paraphrases of the Psalms paired with hymn tunes and to the literal prosaic translations of the Psalms paired with plainchant melodies or psalm-tones. The following article explains these two approaches in more detail.
The biblical Psalter is the most important prayer book in both Jewish and Christian worship. The Psalms have shaped both the language used in Christian worship and the very idea of what worship is. This article describes the conception of worship implied in the Psalms. The Psalter can help a Christian community realize its full potential for worship in Jesus’ name.
But while we smile at some of our preferences, our religious preferences are often quite a different matter. For some reason, our own particular religious traditions and experiences tend to color our ideas of what God’s preferences are and aren’t. Nowhere is this more true than in the area of worship styles. How quickly our preferences become biases. And how easily our biases become walls that keep us from the larger body of Christ and from fuller expressions of worship.
The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of praying at mealtimes and at set hours of the day. The Didachē, a primitive Christian manual of instruction, prescribes prayer three times a day; Clement of Alexandria and Origen in the third century refer to a similar custom in Egypt, as well as to prayer in the night. At the same period in North Africa, however, Tertullian and Cyprian describe a more extensive pattern of daily prayer.
In the religious life of the biblical communities, as in that of the churches of today, prayer was both individual and corporate. Although the biblical worshiper always approaches the Lord as a member of a larger covenanted community, there is a distinction between prayer in general and prayer set in the context of acts of corporate worship. Because prayer is a pervasive posture and activity in the Christian life, the subject of prayer is a comprehensive one; the following discussions are confined largely to prayer as a part of the worship of the gathered community. Prayers of intercession are petitions offered to the Lord on behalf of others: people in special personal need; those who bear particular responsibility for the welfare of others, such as leaders of church and state; the many concerns and issues affecting the church, local and universal; and the larger community of the nation and the world.
Worship that begins with a call to celebration, such as that in many of the psalms, follows a well-established biblical procedure for summoning the assembly into the presence of the Lord and encouraging its praise of the great King.
Early Christian hymnody was influenced by the tradition of psalm singing in the temple. The hymns of the New Testament church served both a doxological and an apologetic function.
Students of the Psalms have attempted to categorize them by content, literary type, and cultic usage. Though each of these methods has its value, an approach to the Psalms through the concept of the covenant correlates both the general theological stance of the Psalter and the variety exhibited by the individual psalms.