One Tongue to Praise

We all need some help in this category.

Celtic Spiritual Poetry (16)

Fair Lord, I pray to You
concerning my excesses and deficiencies:
grant me forgiveness here
for my misdeeds, my ignorance…

Even if I had a hundred strong tongues
with which to speak faultlessly,
I could never relate
one hundredth of the wonders of my High King – 

The eternal lofty Over-King of the varied world,
Who has numbered every skillful multitude,
our Pillar, our Patron, our Abbot,
the lofty King Who has created.

  - Anonymous, “The Psalter of the Quatrains,” Canto III (9thor 10thcentury)[1]

But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.

- Psalm 71.14, 15

Here, at the end of Canto III of Saltar na Rann, the poet captures the longing Charles Wesley expressed in his great hymn, “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:

O, for a thousand tongues to sing 
My great Redeemer's praise! 
The glories of my God and King, 
The triumphs of His grace!

The psalmist might have wished for the same. He resolved to praise God “yet more and more.” He knew there was no limit to the praise God deserves, and he was determined to give Him as much as he could of what is due to Him. These verses of Psalm 71 are the common spring from which flow the glorious stanzas both of Saltair na Rann and “O, for a Thousand Tongues.”

And this, our final selection from The Psalter of the Quatrains, raises an important issue for every Christian. We don’t have a thousand tongues, or even “a hundred strong” ones. But this does not excuse us from giving praise to God, the “eternal lofty Over-King of the varied world.” Christians struggle with this, because we’re not very adept at praising the Lord. Have you ever been in a prayer group when the leader says, “Let’s spend some time praising the Lord”? Didn’t every prayer sound something like, “Lord, we really just praise You”?

But this is not praising the Lord. An old Gaither tune repeated over and over, “Let’s just praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let’s just lift our hearts to heaven and praise the Lord!” While I greatly appreciate the sentiment in that chorus, it leaves me saying, “Good idea; shall we get on with it?”

Paul reminds us that we don’t know how to pray as we ought (Rom. 8.26). He might as well have said that we don’t know how to praise as we ought. There are three excellent reasons for learning to praise God and for praising Him increasingly.

First, He deserves our praise, and He commands it. I probably don’t need to say much about this. The composer of The Psalter of the Quatrains points to some excellent categories around which to organize and elaborate our praise to God as our Pillar, Patron, Abbot, Creator, and lofty King. A little meditation on each of these will open bottomless founts of praise.

Second, praising God helps to keep Him before us throughout the day. David said that one of our highest priorities ought to be to have the Lord always before us, and to contemplate His beauty (Pss. 16.8; 27.4). The more we praise the Lord, rehearsing and extolling His many attributes, virtues, and works, the more He will be on our mind. And the more He is on our mind, the more we may hope to be transformed into His image and likeness (2 Cor. 3.12-18).

Finally, in praise we may expect to know the Presence of the Lord, because the Lord inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22.3). Here is where we know increasing and abiding joy, are refreshed in the power of grace, and stretch out into the fullness of God’s Spirit. And as we enter the Presence of God through praise, our praise increases, increasing the intensity of His Presence, and all the transforming effects that entails.

We don’t have a hundred tongues, much less a thousand; and it’s futile to think we could ever have them. But we do have one tongue, and we should learn to use that tongue for praising the Lord “yet more and more,” both in our quiet times with Him, and as often as He prompts and piques us, whatever else we may be doing, throughout the course of every day.

Questions for Reflection
1. How much time do you spend each day praising the Lord? For what should you praise Him? What makes Him praiseworthy?

2. What can you do to increase praise to the Lord throughout the day?

Psalm 71.12-16, 3 (Solid Rock: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)
O God be not too far from me; my ever-present Helper be! 
Consume and shame my enemies; let them reproached and humbled be.
  A Rock of habitation be, command Your Word to rescue me;
 My Rock and Fortress ever be!

But as for me my voice I raise to sing in hope and constant praise! 
With saving grace my voice will swell Your never-ending grace to tell.
  A Rock of habitation be, command Your Word to rescue me;
 My Rock and Fortress ever be!

Today, Lord, I want to begin praising You yet more and more, so help me as I…

The Ailbe Psalter

The Ailbe Psalter contains all 150 psalms set to familiar hymn tunes. Order a copy for yourself, and begin experiencing the joy and strength that come from singing the Lord’s Word back to Him (click here).

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T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe PsalterScripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1]All quotes from Saltair no Rann are from  John Carey, King of Mysteries(Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998), pp. 98 ff.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore