Hymn text by Johann J. Schütz, 1640-1690. View the full text of this hymn.

How do you praise the Lord?

As a church, we tend to be reserved about how we lavish praise on the Lord. Mormon church meetings generally emphasize reverence over boisterousness, and while we certainly sing praises to the Lord, we generally do so in traditional music styles (hymns) and with traditional instrumentation (organ or piano). The distinction is cultural rather than doctrinal—the way we show praise is simply “the way we do things,” rather than a point where we have been commanded one way or the other.

Regardless of how you choose to show it, we have plenty to sing praises for. This hymn, Sing Praise to Him, goes back to the 17th century and was written by German lawyer and hymnwriter Johann Jakob Schütz. The first three verses of Brother Schütz’s hymn give a rapid-fire list of reasons for us to sing praises to our Creator. They neatly divide into characteristics of the Lord (what He is) and the Lord’s ongoing actions toward us (what He does):

What He is:

  • The Lord of all creation
  • Source of power
  • Fount of love
  • The rock of our salvation
  • Never far away
  • An ever-present help and stay, through all our grief and distress
  • Just and right

What He does:

  • Reigns above
  • Fills our souls with healing balm
  • Stills every faithless murmur
  • Leads us with a hand tender as a mother’s
  • Watches over us, never sleeping

It can be easy to miss, while singing a hymn, the significance of a list like this. While we sing the words, we overlook that any single point in this could be the topic of a hymn itself (and may already be). The fact that the Lord fills our souls with healing balm, for example, with the mercy and forgiveness and Divine comfort that only He can bestow, can be and is the topic of many, many a sermon.

While the first three verses of the hymn provide this remarkable list, the real poetry for me is in the fourth verse. It’s where, if the three verses of praise were overwhelming, we come back down to Earth:

Thus, all my toilsome way along
I sing aloud thy praises,
That men may hear the grateful song
My voice unwearied raises.
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart!
Both soul and body bear your part.
To him all praise and glory!

The way we all make through this life is indeed toilsome. We all need to be picked up sometimes, having fallen over the obstacles that inevitably trip us up. It’s harder then, when we’re lying on the ground, knees scraped and hands dirtied by the struggles of mortal life, to raise our voices and sing praise. We may need to be strong of will to overcome our weakness of flesh: “Be joyful in the Lord, my heart! Both soul and body bear your part!”

Why do we do it? Why do we keep picking ourselves up, and more pertinently, why do we again sing praises to God when we do? Because we know what He has done for us. We know that Jesus Christ has atoned for our sins, and made it possible for us to become perfect as He is. We know that we cannot now see past this mortal probation, but that there is eternal joy in store for us if we endure faithfully. We sing praises to the Lord, with unwearying voices, so that other will hear our grateful song, and have the same joy that we have in the Lord.

To Him, indeed—all praise and glory.

 

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