One of our family rituals when our daughters were young was to sing hymns to them to help them go to sleep. This seemed like a wise and calming thing to do and sometimes even worked! But in the process of doing this I learned a number of hymns that I still sing to myself when I want to calm and redirect my spirit.
One of my favorite hymns for this purpose is Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven written by the English pastor, Henry Lyte. What I find so valuable about this hymn is that it starts out as a prayerful exhortation to my soul and my soul often needs to be exhorted. I want to praise God but I don’t have the spiritual energy to do so.
Then the second stanza takes me beyond my need to praise God to reasons for actually doing so. “Praise him for his grace and favor to our fathers in distress; Praise him still the same forever, slow to chide and swift to bless; Alleluia! Alleluia! Glorious in his faithfulness!” These reminders of God’s goodness often trigger other reasons for thanksgiving and praise.
The third verse touched and still touches me deeply as a father, “Father-like, He tends and spares us, Well our feeble frame he knows; In His hands He gently bears us, Rescues us from all our foes; Alleluia! Alleluia! Widely as his mercy flows!”
But then the last verse takes me beyond my individual framework and invites me to join with others and be part of the whole universe in praising God “Angels, help us to adore Him; Ye behold him face to face; Sun and moon, bow down before Him, Dwellers all in time and space, Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise with us the God of grace!”
Consequently, in just four stanzas I find myself moving from trying to praise God to invoking angels and the whole universe to join me! It is a remarkably helpful and instructive hymn and has frequently stirred and formed my soul. I’m glad our girls liked me to sing this hymn and in fact they remember it now as well.
Join the Conversation
What song or hymn brings your heart to praise?
How does singing praises to God bring you joy and peace?
Bob Fryling is Publisher of InterVarsity Press and has recently written The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How You Lead by who You Are. (IVP)