Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

103rd Psalm Part IIa: Praise

Posted by flyingbk on 10/12/2016

Every weekend during the fall, across the nation, in every state and virtually every city, we jam into public spaces. At this place, we wear similar clothing and we all come, ready to praise and worship. We greet one another warmly with recognition that we’re gathered together as one body for one cause. There will be moments of reflection, moments where the people are led in recitation, and moments of singing. The emotional spectrum is explored in each congregation: There are times of shouting, celebrating, lifting of hands, but also sadness and mourning and even crying.

I was at one of these worship sessions exactly one year ago.

I’m talking about football, but the same applies for baseball. Here’s a pic from my session, at game 3 of the National League Division Series between the Mets and Dodgers at Citi Field. We’re ready for the worship service:


(I’m in the middle. Props to the two gentlemen who photobombed us.)

Whenever I go to baseball games (and I went to a whopping 18 this year, I re-downloaded my MLB Ballpark App just to verify this number), I’m ever reminded of this phenomenon. We are there to praise, we are there to celebrate. We also may be there to mourn, although we hope otherwise.

This post is Part II of a series exploring the first five verses of the 103rd Psalm (Part I was yesterday). Here are the first two verses (NIV):

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits.

When I think about praise, I’m reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms:

But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. . . . Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible. . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

I love that emboldened part. That assertion is why I went to Citi Field one year ago. It’s fun cheering on your favorite team; it’s a complete blast cheering as one of 44,276 people. When the Mets succeed, we praise as one. When the Mets fail, we grieve as one. There are ritualistic and liturgical elements to each ballgame (the 7th inning stretch, the Piano Man singalong at Citi Field or Sweet Caroline at Fenway Park, the T-shirt launch, each big hit, strikeout, etc.). But like Lewis writes, “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.” Witness the fans’ spontaneity as we whoop it up when minister of the wooden bat Yoenis Cespedes launches one into orbit at said ballgame:


When you discover someone or something praiseworthy, it’s emotional sabotage to keep it to yourself. Lewis is so insightful when he writes that “shyness or the fear of boring others” prevents us from sharing our praise with others. We MUST praise, we MUST gush, we MUST tell others. We mustn’t let fear or shyness hold us back. Otherwise, our inner health suffers.

That’s why in this psalm, King David actually commands himself to praise the Lord. He tells his own soul, “Hey, you’ve got to praise God.” And he does it thrice. When we think about the Lord, and what He’s done for us, the proper response is to overflow in praise. But we know all too well that there are times when we don’t feel like praising. This symptom points to our inner sickness, and the only prescription is to praise. As my old youth pastor liked to say, there are two times to worship God: When you feel like it, and when you don’t.

That’s one reason why we need to gather. Not at stadiums, but at churches. We come together and we put on similar garments of praise. We greet each other knowing that we’re for one purpose. We take time to reflect, recite, listen, celebrate, and lift our hands.

And we sing.


In seminary, I learned that one translation of “my soul” (as we see in verses 1 and 2) is actually “my throat.” David is actually imploring his own throat to praise the Lord! I quoted my youth pastor above; I remember so many times in youth group when I came to church on a Sunday in a bad mood. I had no interest in praising God. But I heeded my pastor’s words, and began to lift my voice. And before I knew it, there was a change in my heart and disposition. By the end of the singing, and in time for the sermon, my sullenness had transformed into sunniness.

Why? My posture and my throat directly affected my soul. Here’s another favorite quote from Lewis, this time from his classic The Screwtape LettersIn this quote, Uncle Screwtape, a senior devil, is giving his junior devil Wormwood on how to deceive:

At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.

Our bodily position matters. Our throats matter. Imagine if at that Mets game, when Yo hit that bomb, we all remained still and silent. Such a lack of reaction would be a sign that we were ill, or perhaps dead.

So let’s sing. Let’s use our throats. At church on Sundays, and every other day while we’re at it. Let’s praise God every chance we get, and not back. Then we’ll possess that inner health, and it will be made audible.


5 Responses to “103rd Psalm Part IIa: Praise”

  1. […] « 103rd Psalm Part IIa: Praise […]

  2. […] This is part IIb of a series on Psalm 103. Part I here and Part IIa here. […]

  3. […] is Part 3 of my series on Psalm 103. See: Part I, Part IIa, Part […]

  4. […] are at part 4 of my series on the 103rd Psalm (Past entries: Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 3). As I covered last time, we all have a dark side. And sadly, we each know all too […]

  5. […] continue our look at Psalm 103 (Past entries: Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 3, Part 4). We’ve been looking at this psalm as a progression that gets better […]

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