Psalms of Thanksgiving
A Psalm of Thanksgiving is not meant to offer thanksgiving to God in general. These psalms were written and sung in response to God’s intervention. They acknowledge that the petitioner’s cry for help has been heard and answered. As we sing these psalms, we share in the direct knowledge that God answers our prayers and steadies us when we are slipping. We are reminded that while our lives are fraught with challenges and set backs, God never abandons us. With such knowledge and faith comes J O Y, and with joy comes G R A T I T U D E. And that is something to sing about.
God put a new song in my mouth
As with lamentations, psalms in this genre have a distinct poetic structure and share similar characteristics. A Psalm of Thanksgiving can be broken into three parts: 1). an outpouring of gratitude based on some immediate experience of God’s goodness and grace; 2). a narration of the lamentable trials the psalmist underwent; 3). a conclusion praising God’s greatness and an expression of continued faith/humility/service.
A great example is Psalm 116.
I love the LORD, because God heard my voice and my supplications, Because God has listened to me, therefore I will call on the Lord as long as I live. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; When I was brought low, the Lord saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I kept my faith, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted." What shall I render to the Lord for all God's bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all God's people. O Lord, I am your servant, you have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of the people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
Over the next weeks of Lent, you might reflect on times in your life when God has shown up for you when you most needed it, and you may even choose to write down your feelings–perhaps even attempt a poem. When you contemplate God’s direct action or presence during this time of anxiety, what words come to mind? What concrete images help convey your sense of J O Y ? Tell God, thank you.
I waited patiently for the Lord
who inclined to me and heard my cry.
God drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
God put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and hear and trust God.
Blessed is the one who makes the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud.
You have multiplied, O lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be numbered.
Lord I turn to you when I am in distress.
Thank you for being there for me.
I will tell others of your mercy and love
so that all may come to know
your kindness. AMEN
from You Shall Not Want: The Psalms.
Ave Maria Press, 2009.