“Oh sing to the LORD a new son; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” Psalm 96, a song that celebrates God, begins with these words. A parallel, in 1 Chronicles 16, was sung by Asaph and his brothers at the command of King David, at the rededication of the tabernacle after it was moved to Jerusalem. But that parallel is not the primary reason I’m writing about Psalm 96 in “Call for Fire Seminar.” Psalm 96 seems to me to be a primer for prayers of praise to God. Its words gain power when read with awareness of God’s Messiah having come in the person of Jesus and in anticipation of Christ coming again in judgment.
We sing a new song to the Lord. Christ makes all things new, makes each new believer a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). This psalm praises God, and so doing, shows how to pray a prayer of praise. Note the imperatives from which we may learn what to include in such a prayer:
“Sing to the Lord, bless his name, tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations; his marvelous works among all the peoples” (verse 2!
“Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!” (verse 7).
“Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” (verse 9).
“Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’ Yes the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity” (verse 10).
The Psalm praises God as Savior, as Creator, as Sustainer, as Holy, as King, and as Judge. It affirms concretely that God is real and that other deities are frauds:
“For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens” (verses 4 and 5).
The rest of God’s creation also praises him: “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness” (verses 11 and 12a). Can we keep silent while the rest of Creation praises? The psalm’s allusions to the rest of Creation praising God reminds us that God cares for all he has created and that he has made us stewards of this earth.
The psalm reminds us of God’s holiness, his otherness. Verse nine equates worship with trembling before him. We anticipate God’s presence and appreciate greatly his love, but fear his judgment. Prayers may include cries for help, intercession for others, and confession of sin. We also may pray prayers like the ones this psalm encourages: prayers that praise our God.
“O God our Creator, you made us and placed us in this world where you sustain us with its resources. You call us to be holy as you are holy. We tremble as we contemplate your power and your perfection. You love us; you sent your Son to redeem us and to show us the way to holiness. Our world, which you made also, testifies to your existence. Help us to hear its testimony, and also to heed the guidance of your Word. You are our King; help us to live lives that will prepare us to meet you as Judge, so that we may hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Thank you, Father, for sending your Son, our Savior Jesus, in whose name we pray, Amen.