“The Lord is my Shepherd; no want shall I know…” This familiar hymn is based on the 23rd Psalm and is a cherished reminder of our many blessings from the Lord. It speaks of our cup running over, so much so that there’s nothing more we could possibly request. It’s a beautiful work of praise and stirs our hearts.
You already know some of the Psalms through singing our hymns. Do you recall singing, “The Lord is my light, so why should I fear?” That comes from Psalm 27. Or, in the chorus of Let Us All Press On, we sing “The Lord is on our side” which comes from Psalm 118. Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow is based on Psalms 148. Sweet is the Work echoes Psalm 92. Even the joyful There is Sunshine in My Soul Today can thank Psalm 16 for its message.
As you sing our hymns, glance down at the scriptural reference notes on the bottom right of the song. You’ll be amazed at how many will refer you to a Psalm.
These beautiful Hebrew poems and prayers, mostly written by David, are more than meets the eye. They include literary techniques such as chiasmus and parallelism, but don’t be daunted; you can write a psalm your own way. Just as the Hebrews painted pictures to reveal their emotions, you can express the feelings in your heart as well.
Often, while praying, meditating, studying the scriptures, or serving with love, we feel a fullness in our hearts. We may even sense a prompting from the Holy Ghost, or hear the answer to a prayer. This is an ideal time to jot down our gratitude, our amazement, our astonishment at God’s love. Perhaps our tender feelings about our families are foremost in your mind. Maybe it will be about the Plan of Salvation. Or the understanding of a trial that brought growth and humility. A formal declaration of God’s power and glory is a doxology—maybe this is what you’ll choose to express.
Writing our feelings is a wonderful way to reach across generations. When we do this, we not only reach; we teach. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to be long. It just needs to express your heart. Your posterity might actually be saved by reading something you wrote which is exactly what they needed to hear.
Some of the Psalms were put to music. If this helps you, go ahead and make it a song. Often music is the conduit into our hearts, and can heighten a spiritual message.
You might want to read some Psalms before starting. Highlight phrases that speak to you. You might even want to base your comments on one of them.
Here are some of my own highlights in this wonderful Old Testament book:
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, the Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. (Psalms 9:9-10)
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5-6)
I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved…Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalms 16:8,11)
This could be a wonderful way to cope with the trials of today, as well. Yes, we are all going through a challenging period of history, but our Heavenly Father is unchanging and has given us eternal truths to guide us home. When we fix our focus upon that, mortal concerns can fall into their proper perspective. We begin to feel an increased measure of joy, gratitude, and hope for the future. Pretty good reasons to try our hand at a bit a poetry, no?
Hilton’s books, humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.