Prayer (Psalms Similar to the Element of)

“In prayer, we come to God to ask for those things which we need; but in praise, we ascribe to him the glory which is due unto his name. As our situation and circumstances are ever varying, our wants are very different at one time, from what they are at another. Our petitions must consequently be framed in accordance with our wants. But God is unchangeable, and his praise is always the same. That glory which is proper to be ascribed to his name at one time, will always be proper. No matter what may be our situation; whether we may be in prosperity or in adversity; whether we may be the subjects of joy or of sorrow, still God is to be praised for what he is in himself, and for the exhibitions of his glory which he has made in the works of creation, of providence, and of redemption. And what ascriptions of glory are due to him, the Spirit of God has declared in those psalms, and hymns, and songs, which are the productions of his infinite wisdom.”[1]

“In social prayer, one leads in the exercise, while others follow and unite with him in presenting their supplications before the throne of grace; but, in praise, all simultaneously lift up their voices together in extolling the name of God. And hence it results, that in the exercise of praise, a written form is absolutely necessary, while in prayer, such form is unnecessary. And hence, as our songs of praise assume a character of permanency, which does not belong to our prayers, we can see an important and obvious reason, why provision should be made for our assistance in the performance of the one duty, which was not considered necessary in the other. And in connexion with this consideration, I remark, 3. That since, in singing God’s praise, a written form is necessary, there is provided for the church in the word of God, a book of Psalms, while there is no book of Prayers. This is a fact which deserves special attention. The infinitely wise God, does nothing in vain, and never works without design. From every part of the word of God we learn that it is our duty, both to pray to him and to sing praises to his name. And while the duty in both cases is perfectly plain, it is no less evident, that God has made provision with regard to the performance of the one duty, which he has not thought proper to make with reference to the other. Not only are we commanded to sing psalms, but a book of Psalms which contains the songs of the Spirit of purity, of love, and of grace, is provided for our use. Men may say, that ‘ as we use our own language in prayer, so may we in praise;’ but the fact that God has himself provided for us a book of Psalms, while he has given us no book of Prayers, rebukes the unwarranted assertion. And from the provision already made for us by Him who knows the glory due to himself, there is no need for us to prepare songs of praise, unless we are disposed to adopt the presumptuous principle, that we are more competent to decide what is proper to be employed in praising God, than he himself who is the object of praise. But in relation to prayer, the case is entirely different. “While it is plainly our duty to pray, He with whom is the residue of the Spirit, has not thought proper to provide for us a collection of prayers. And consequently, in complying with the divine command, —’In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God’—we must, from the necessity of the case, express our requests in our own language.”[2]

“Our Lord taught his disciples to pray, and gave them an admirable form of prayer, with reference to which he has said, ‘After this manner pray ye.’ But he gave his disciples no divine song, as a model of praise, according to which they were to compose their songs, with a direction, as in the case of prayer, to sing after this manner. And why, with reverence I would ask, did not the great Prophet of the church, furnish in the New Testament a book of sacred hymns, or direct some one of his Apostles to perform this service? The only rational answer which can be given to this inquiry, is, that he did not consider it necessary. He had already raised up a sweet Psalmist of Israel, whom he had qualified for the work, and by whom he had provided for his church, such a collection of psalms, and hymns, and songs, as to his infinite wisdom and goodness seemed proper. And with regard to the difference between these two religious duties, I observe once more, – That as provision has been made in the case of praise, which has not been made with regard to prayer, so there is a promise of divine help in the performance of the duty of prayer, which is not given in relation to praise.”[3]

“[Prayer and praise] agree in that they both have to do with worship, but they differ in that in prayer we voice our needs to God, while in praise we ascribe to Him the glory which is His due. Our changing circumstances vary our needs and hence our prayers, but God is the same and His praise is unchanging.”[4]

“It is objected that we may make prayers, and why not praises? Some observations are here in point. 1) There is a warrant for making prayer; there is none for making hymns 2) Inspiration has furnished Psalms, praises; it has not furnished prayers. They are to be made as required 3) We have the promise of the Spirit for composing our prayers; but none for composing praises; “Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought;” etc. 4) If praises and prayers are on precisely the same ground, praise must be extempore. Proper prayer is: there is no warrant for liturgical prayers. However, the hymn-singing denominations do not leave their people to extemporize prayers – they give them a hymn-book; i.e. they recognize the difference between prayer and praise 5) More fundamentally , prayer and praise are two distinct tings –quite as much so as preaching and praise. Yet preaching may contain some elements of prayer in it, and also of praise. a) In praise there is a musical ordering of the voice; prayer is only simple articulation, or even a mental address. b) Prayer is chiefly the presentation of requests, confession of sins, thanksgiving for mercies; praise is, generally, the heralding of divine excellences, of divine glory as displayed in creation, providence, and redemption. In inspired Psalmody may be found matter which might elsewhere enter into prayer; but specifically in its place in the Psalms it is psalmody; it is not prayer. It is not offered as prayer. It is offered as a tribute to God. If a given composition were mere prayer it would not be musically offered. Praise is cast into permanent forms; it is not so with prayer; and praise is so cast in order alike to express the feelings of worship and to arouse them, and to be a coin of worship ready at hand which God will receive. The primary reference of praise is to God. The primary reference of prayer is to the wants of man. Praise is permanent because God is unchangeable, but prayer partakes of the mutable condition of men. To come close to the question as to why we may sing the praises of God in inspired prayers and not in those of uninspired men you will note, on the one hand, that the forms of prayer in the Psalter are not really prayers. They are inspired praises in the form of prayer. On the other hand, the prayers which men propose and offer as praises are not inspired, not appointed as praises. This makes a vast difference between the prayers of the Psalter and those of the hymn-book. If, however, anyone wishes to pray to God in meter of human composition there is no objection; however, he is not to count it praise; it will not be praise because he sings it; nor will the fact that the Psalms are sometimes in the form of prayer be an authorizing precedent. He lacks inspiration, and has no commission to provide psalmody for himself or anyone else.”[5]

“When it was objected that there should be freedom to compose songs as equally as there is to compose prayers, the answer is given that God prescribes a set form for singing but not for praying: “The Apostle hath prescribed us what to sing, viz. Psalmes and Hymnes, and spiritual Songs, which are the express Titles of David’s Psalmes, as was shewed before.” “There is a difference in this, that the Lord did not prescribe unto his people set formes of Prayer, as he prescrib’d set formes of Psalmes, 2 Chron. 29.30. They were to sing in the words of David and Asaph, but we read not that they were to pray in any such set form” (Ford, 27, 28). He then spends much time defending the singing of psalms in a mixed congregation and urging the people to sing the psalms of David with the spirit of David.”[6]

“Many argue that since some of the Psalms were derived from prayers (e.g., Ps 17, 51, 61,
etc.), and since we compose fresh prayers each time we pray, we can therefore write new songs for singing in praise to God. They say that there is no essential difference between saying a prayer or putting a tune to it and singing it. They say further, that the distinction between “admissible as worship but not singable” and “admissible as worship and singable” is a uniquely modern (i.e., post-Reformation) concept. However, this argument proceeds on erroneous principles. It takes for granted that because a man can pray, therefore he is a poet; that because he can make a prayer, therefore he can compose a hymn. That all can pray will be readily conceded; that all are poets will not be admitted by anyone. Hence the fallacy is easily detected… That, of course, is not what is meant by the advocates of human hymns. They simply mean that because we are permitted to compose our own prayers we should let others compose hymns for us. It is quite evident, however, that there is no logical connection between the premises and the conclusion. It is the employment of words without meaning. Suppose any of us use the hymns of Watts or Wesley or Cowper, in what sense are they ours? They cannot be ours in any definite sense.”[7]

“It is, of course, true that songs of praise often include what is of the nature of prayer to God, as it is also true that in the offering of prayer to God there is much that is of the nature of praise and thanksgiving. But it is not proper to appeal to the divine authorization or warrant we possess as to the content of prayer in order to determine the question as to the content of song. Prayer is one element of worship, singing is another. Similarity or even identity of content does not in the least obliterate the distinction between these two specific kinds of exercise in the worship of God.”[8]

“Paul says that women are not to teach in a worship setting (1 Cor 14.33-35; 1 Tim 2.11-12). If preaching, singing, and prayer are nothing more than different modes of the ‘word’ element of worship, as some claim, then women must not be permitted to pray or sing either. Most of those who agree with Presbyterian and Reformed principles hold the view that women are not permitted to preach, but I know of no one who would not permit them to sing Psalms. Similarly, some congregations do not permit women to engage in vocalized pray in a worship setting, but permit them to sing Psalms. They admit by making these distinctions, that preaching, praying, and singing are in fact different elements. It is only when they are attempting to defend the introduction of hymns of mere human composition into worship that they inconsistently claim that preaching, prayer, and singing are modal variations of a common element of worship.”[9]

1Cooke. H., John Edgar & Thomas Houston. The True Psalmody or, the Bible Psalms the Church’s Only Manual of Praise. Belfast: James. Johnston, 1861, pages 110-111.
2Ibid., pages 111-112.
4Montgomery, J. Knox. “Objections to the Exclusive Use of the Psalms in Worship” in The Psalms in Worship (1907), Edmonton: Still Waters Revival Books, 1992, page 478.
5Grier, James A. “Objections to the Exclusive Use of Psalms in Worship” in The Psalms in Worship (1907), Edmonton: Still Waters Revival Books, 1992, pages 459-460.
6Winzer, Matthew. “Westminster and Worship Examined: A Review of Nick Needham’s essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s teaching concerning the regulative principle, the singing of psalms, and the use of musical instruments in the public worship of God.” The Confessional Presbyterian, Volume 4 (2008), pages 253–266.
7Hughes, James R. In Spirit and Truth: Worship as God Requires (Understanding and Applying the Regulative Principle of Worship), 2009. PDF e-book, page 73. Quoting James Wilson, “Answers to the Common Arguments for the Use of Hymns in Divine Worship,” Psalm Singers’ Conference: Belfast, Fountain Printing Works, 1903, pp. 98-99.
8Murray, John & William Young. “Reports of the Committee on Song in Worship (Minority Report of the Committee on Song in the Public Worship of God Submitted to the Fourteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church).” Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Web. January 9, 2016.