an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Category: Psalms

Writing a Psalm of Thanksgiving

At past LBFC Thanksgiving Celebrations, we have included times for expression of thanksgiving. In recent years, this took the suggested form of:

I am thankful to God for _____________because ______________

This was intended to help each of us form an expression of thanks to share in our worship celebration, allowing many to participate. This year, we are taking another step in structuring our Thanksgiving. This step is intended to integrate personal expressions thanksgiving into a sense of all giving thanks together – that is, corporate worship! The structure I recommended is taken from brief Psalms of praise or thanksgiving in the Bible. (This structure was explained and recommended to me and others at the recent Psalms Retreat that was led so well by leaders of Long Beach Grace Brethren Church.)

This structure is quite simple. It is in three parts:

  1. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise
  2. Reasons for Thanksgiving and Praise
  3. Call to Thanksgiving and Praise

Think of the first call as you speaking to others who are present as you speak or read your Psalm. You are inviting them to offer thanks and praise to God. The second portion of your Psalm is you giving reasons to those listening for your praise or thanksgiving. You may be speaking to the other people who are listening, or to God, or both. The third portion is you asking those who are listening, again, to join you in the thanksgiving – particularly now that you explained reasons for it.

Psalm 117 uses this pattern:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord.

The first portion:

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.

is a call for those who are listening – in this case “all you nations”! and “all you peoples” – to praise God.

The second portion is giving reasons for this praise:

For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

And then the call to the listeners to praise God is repeated as the third part.

And that’s it. We are encouraging our congregation to work on writing their own Psalm of Thanksgiving leading up to our Thanksgiving Celebration. Bring it with you – in your memory or written down somewhere. (I keep mine on my phone). Then, in our time for sharing, as God leads you, read it or repeat it to call others to praise and thanksgiving, give your reasons why, and call them again!

Your Psalm might be longer than Psalm 117. For example, Psalm 118 follows the three part pattern with more words. The first call is verses 1 to 4. Then the reasons are given in verses 5 through 28! That’s a lot of reasons! And finally, a call is repeated in verse 29.

We probably wouldn’t encourage anyone to read a Psalm as long and complex as Psalm 118 at the Thanksgiving Celebration, but the simple three-part structure allows you to give more than one or two reasons for expressing thanks to God.

What do you say in your reasons?

You can talk about God and what He has done. Your reasons can be personal or general. They can be based on corporate experiences of our church family or your biological family. Reasons do not all have to be superficially “good”. Job and other examples of faith expressed praise for God in the face of severe trials, praising God in spite of circumstances. As several of the leaders told us at the Psalms Retreat, “Pain makes your praise credible.” When we are not driven by external circumstances, but by a deep experience of God’s faithfulness in times of trouble and pain, this can be a powerful witness of faith.

Lastly, even if you think you are unlikely to read your Psalm at the celebration, I’d like to encourage you to write one, or work on one. Several people – just in the 24 hours since Sunday when we introduced this exercise – have expressed how spiritually beneficial it has been for them to work through writing a Psalm of thanksgiving to God. I found it very encouraging and spiritually engaging to write Psalms as we were instructed to do so at the Psalms Retreat I attended. It’s a good thing to reflect and work through your reasons to thank God, particularly in this season of Thanksgiving, and to call others to join you – even if it is only in your own personal interaction with God.

As another example here’s a Psalm of Thanksgiving that I worked on during our worship times on Sunday. I was thinking of our very diverse church family as I wrote.

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

I rejoice in going up to worship.
God has called the nations to Himself, to life.
Let us go up together with many tongues and offerings of great praise from across the whole world.
God has done it.

My people didn’t know God when he called Abraham.
They didn’t know God when he called David.
When God sent Jesus, my people had never heard of him.
Our families were still lost when God’s holy spirit descended in tongues of fire and began to speak to the nations through his people in their own languages.

But now we are found.
Even in Long Beach, today – we are found!
We are alive, because we know Him and trust Him.

Praise his name.
Today, let us thank him together for what he has done!