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The Psalm with a Painful Lament - Psalm 13

A service plan focused on pain and lament, especially that expressed in Psalm 13. This is part of a series called "Great Chapters of the Bible."

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Many Christians are not comfortable with the laments that frequently appear in the Psalms. They sound earthy, from-the-gut, and seem beneath the dignity of the book of Psalms. Yet, all Christians frequently experience pain, and many live with it each day.

This service will focus on the lament that David offers in Psalm 13. In his own complaints against God, he gives us the freedom to express ours, and he also points us in the direction of healing.

Note -- This subject can be addressed at any time because on any given Sunday a number of worshipers have brought significant pain with them. Still, a service such as this, with honest lament, is most meaningful when it is a response to specific events, needs, or pain. A week when some identifiable public tragedy has occurred will make it more timely and probably more appreciated.

We come honestly before God;
we find new healing when we are free to express our laments to him.


Prelude: "Settings of Psalm 23" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship:

Welcome to the worship of the Lord! Hear the words of Jesus as he calls us today:

"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls."
(Matthew 11:28, 29)

This morning God encourages us to come in all candor and honesty. Leave no burdens, cares, or pain behind. Bring it into his presence as he welcomes us.

*Song of Invitation: "Come to the Water" (SNC 234) [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:

Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

*Song of Affirmation: "The Lord, My Shepherd, Rules My Life" PH 170, PsH 23, RL 89/90, SFL 201, TH 85/86/87, TWC 330/615, UMH136 [see <href="#music" >music notes]


The Reading of Scripture: Psalm 13

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Reading of Revelation 6:9-11

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "How Long Will You Hide Your Face from Me?"


A Reading:

Long enough, God--
you've ignored me long enough.
I've looked at the back of your head
long enough. Long enough
I've carried this ton of trouble,
lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies
have looked down their noses at me.

Take a good look at me, God, my God:
I want to look life in the eye
so no enemy can get the best of me
or laugh when I fall on my face.
(from Psalm 13, The Message)

Song of Trust: "Healer of Our Every Ill " SNC 205, WOV 73)

Prayers of Lament and Intercession (see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes)

Sung Prayer: "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" st. 1 SNC 203, WOV 772
Sung Prayer
Sung Prayer
Sung Prayer
Sung Prayer: "O Lord, Hear My Prayer" st. 1, 2

A Reading:

I've thrown myself headlong into your arms--
I'm celebrating your rescue.
I'm singing at the top of my lungs,
I'm so full of answered prayers.
(from Psalm 13, The Message)

*Songs of Trust:

"Those Who Wait Upon the Lord" (SFL 215)
"On Eagle's Wings" RN 112, SNC 185, WOV 779, UMH 143

A Reading:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (from John 10)

Song of Faith: "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me" PH 363, SFL 214, SNC 130, TH 611, TWC 642, UMH 521, WOV 660

The Offertory:

Our Offering of Music: "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me " [see <href="#music" >music notes]
We Offer our Gifts for..


*The Benediction with Congregational "Amen"

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)


*Song of Faith: "I Love the Lord" PH 362, SNC 227

Postlude: "On Eagle's Wings" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

1. Members of a congregation are often divided in their responses to subjects such as this one. On the one hand, there are those who are experiencing great personal pain and will welcome a worship service that honestly addresses it and a sermon that does not ignore it. They will come to worship eagerly seeking help and comfort. On the other hand, others will resist the subject. Maybe they assume all Psalms are Psalms of Praise. Perhaps they've been taught that church is not the place for tears. They might think problems should be left behind when they come to worship, or they might be denying their own pain and suffering. In any event, some will resist this subject while others welcome it. Consequently, it might be well to begin this sermon with the acknowledgement of such differences and ask them to think about it.

2. Psalms of lament are often called the neglected Psalms. There may be multiple reasons for that -- maybe we've taught that "good Christians don't feel that way!" or that lamenting is a sign of weak faith. There are two responses to such concerns: (1) about one third of the Psalms contain laments, and they should be cited so worshipers "see the other side" of the book of Psalms, and (2) God welcomes our candor, frankness and honesty so that he can minister to us.

3. Laments are a certain kind of complaint -- one that is always expressed in the context of faith and trust in God. We believe we can be honest with God about the pain of life because we know he loves us, welcomes hearing our struggles and cries, and will reach to us in his mercy. In a lament we never let go of our faith. The reading from Revelation 6 is included as just such a case in point.

4. Our laments are a response to the pain of life. We cry to God when life gets hard and we discover there are no quick and easy solutions. And when that reality hits us, we sometimes question whether it does any good to pray and even have times of feeling abandoned by God. We can afford to be honest about such struggles because we know God loves us through Christ and we love him in Christ.

5. When we lament, we experience healing from God; we trust the unfailing love of God and keep coming back to that. We hold on even in the face of discouragement and temptation to give up, and we also look ahead to the day when God brings resolution.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America;
Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice ( Augsburg Fortress)

1. The suggestions for prelude are based on hymns tunes associated with settings of Psalm 23.

BROTHER JAMES' AIR ["The Lord's My Shepherd"]

Cherwien, David Interpretations bk. 8 AMSI SP-105 [1991] (E-M)
Darke, Harold A Meditation on Brother James' Air Oxford [1948] (M)
Haan, Raymond H. O Worship the King Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur The Lord Is My Shepherd Morningstar MSM-10-420 [1999] (E)
Wood, Dale Wood Works SMP KK357 [1986] (E-M )
Wright, Searle Prelude on Brother James's Air Oxford 93.103 [1958] (E-M )
Wright, Searle The Oxford Book of Wedding Music Oxford ISBN 0-19-375119-4 [1991]
(E- M )


Carter, John Songs of the Shepherd Hope 1967 [1996] (E-M)
Sanborn, Jan Piano Music for the Care of the Soul Ron Harris RHP0403 [1997] (M)
Shackley, Larry Celtic Hymn Settings for Piano Hope 8117 [2001] (E-M)


Kinyon, Barbara Baltzer Brother James' Air Agape 1220 [1985] (3-4 octaves, E-M)
Page, Anna Laura Brother James' Air Alfred 19650 (3-5 octaves, level 3)

CRIMOND ["The Lord, My Shepherd, Rules My Life"]

Held, Wilbur The Lord Is My Shepherd Morningstar MSM-10-420 [1999] (E-M)


Carter, John Songs of the Shepherd Hope 1967 [1996] (E-M)

Choral Resource:

Mueller, Carl F. The Lord's My Shepherd Fischer CM6616 [1951] (SATB and piano or organ; hymn-based; Psalm 23; E-M)

RESIGNATION/CONSOLATION ["My Shepherd Will Supply My Need"]

Callahan, Charles Six Meditations on American Folk Hymns Concordia 97-6140 [1992]
Haan, Raymond H. Be Present Now Morningstar MSM-10-566 [2004] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur The Lord Is My Shepherd Morningstar MSM-10-420 [1999] (E-M)
Martin, Gilbert M. The Bristol Collection vol. 2 Flammer HF-5078 [1975] (E-M)
Wood, Dale Wood Works bk. 2 SMP KK400 [1989] (E-M)


Carter, John Folk Hymns for Piano Hope 240 [1987] (E-M)
Carter, John Songs of the Shepherd Hope 1967 [1996] (E-M)
Leavitt, John How Sweet the Sound CPH 97-6891 [2000] (M)


Wagner, Douglas E. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need SMP S-HB16 [1982] (3 octaves, E-M)


Callahan, Charles This Is the Feast CPH 97-6575 [1996] (E-M)

2. The opening song of invitation could be sung congregationally or as a choral anthem. The anthem setting "Come to the Water" by John Foley S.J. is published by OCP 9489 [1993] for SATB choir, congregation, piano, guitar and solo instrument. The text is suggested by Isaiah 55:1, 2, Matthew 11:28-30; (E-M).

3. An alternative harmonization for "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me" can be found in:

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

Carlson, J. Bert Let It Rip! At the Piano Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

4. Suggestions for offertory music, based on "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me" can be found in

SOJOURNER/Walk With Me ["I Want Jesus to Walk with Me"]

Cherwien, David Groundings Augsburg 11-11119 [2001] (E-M)
Henry, Raymond Augsburg Organ Library - Lent Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Lenten Hymn Settings for Organ set 3 Morningstar MSM-10-322 [1977] (M)


Edison, June Great Day! Houston B41 [1991] (M)


Sherman, Arnold B. The Journey Agape 1897 [1997] (3-5 octaves, level 3+)

5. We recommend piano accompaniment for "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me" and "I Love the Lord."

6. The postlude suggestions on "On Eagle's Wings" can be found in the following resources:


Callahan, Charles This Is the Feast CPH 97-6575 [1996] (M)


Carter, John Today's Hymns and Songs for Piano Hope 244 [1995] (E-M)
Organ, Anne Krentz On Eagle's Wings Augsburg 11-10711 [1996] (M-D)


Honoré, Jeffrey On Eagle's Wings Concordia 97-6429 [1994] (3-5 octaves, E-M)

Choral Resource:

Joncas, Michael/Wagner, Douglas On Eagle's Wings Hope A675 [1993] (SATB and keyboard; based on Psalm 91; E-M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. The tone of this service should be clearly established at the beginning. The Call to Worship helps do this. Transitional words that introduce the two opening songs, the declaration of trust, and God's greeting should also reflect the willingness to lament. Though such transitional and introductory words should be brief, their aim should be to give freedom to be open and honest with God about the pain we've brought into worship.

2. Two separate readings, using the translation of Psalm 13 by Eugene Peterson in The Message, are included. Someone besides the preacher should read these so they come with a different voice. The reader should be very familiar with the passages and be able read with expression, though not so much that attention is directed to the reader. A reading like this can be more effective if it takes place off to the side and from a position other than the pulpit. The voice that is represented in these readings is the voice of a worshiper to God and may even be read from within the congregation.

3. The Prayer of Lament and Intercession ought to be designed and written carefully. The sung prayer ("O Lord, Hear My Prayer") begins the time of prayer and is interspersed through the prayer, and both verses end the prayer. We suggest that the prayer, whether led by one person or four different persons, should carefully move through several stages. We suggest these:

  1. Our address to God -- Though we will be expressing great need, we do so before the sovereign and gracious God. However, since we are finite and sinful as we come into his presence, this opening part of the prayer should also include an expression of our penitence and a request for his pardoning mercy.
  2. Our expression of pain and discouragement -- This section of the prayer should be carefully representative of the needs existent in the congregation, community and world. It will require wisdom to be honest, yet not so specific that privacy and confidentiality are violated.
  3. Intercessions for those in need -- Here we make our requests of God for those who are suffering, discouraged, and tempted to doubt.
  4. Our affirmation of faith -- Though we express our pain and admit our struggles, these do not occur outside of our firm confidence in God's care of us even if we cannot see it.

From these four stages, it becomes clear that if the prayer is led by four persons, close collaboration among the four is vitally important.

4. This service provides an excellent opportunity to emphasize the nature and importance of the benediction for worshipers. The benediction is not a wish, a hope or a prayer. It is a promise from God that when we leave this place, we can be confidently assured that his gracious presence goes with us. Such assurance will be vitally necessary for those who have brought their pain to God. For this reason the worshipers are encouraged to respond with the affirming corporate Amen!