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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Poems of PRAISE!

The Psalms provide wonderful examples of ways to praise, pray, thank God – and also to complain and lament! A study of those timeless poems shows almost all of the lamentations in Psalms as beginning with a concern but ending with praise or thanksgiving. That uplift at the end exemplifies a strong faith in God, despite hard or scary circumstances, and also shows how the poured-out-heart of a poet must remain completely honest and wholly vulnerable.

Unlike the “made poem” of the sonnet and other traditional verse, this type of poetry writing relies on prayer and spontaneity. For example, a startling phrase or insight may suddenly come to mind and need to be written down in a spirit of obedience, rather than the usual intent on creativity. Once those words have been recorded on paper or computer, the rest of the poem will often follow freely.

You might call such poems short meditations, but as a lifelong lover of the Bible, I consider these types of poems as contemporary psalms and prayer-poems. At least, that’s how I would describe the poetry in my book PRAISE! which Cladach Publishing released this March.

To give you an example, the word ruah appears hundreds of times in the Bible and, depending on its context, means wind, an animating force, or the Holy Spirit. That thought brought to mind God’s Breath, which soon brought forth other thoughts in this poem:

Praise God the Breath of Life –

Who breathed me awake
at birth,

Who breathes on me now
in my sleep,

Who keeps my lungs filled
with Holy Spirit Ruah,

and takes my breath away.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, from PRAISE!

For about a year, the opening lines or thoughts for praise poems came to me with the rest of the lines usually following fairly quickly. I posted most of those on the Praise Poems blog, which eventually led to their collection in the print book PRAISE!

Like the biblical psalms, these poems came without titles. Rather than labeling them numerically, as editors did in later years for the Psalms, I saw the first line as the poem’s title.

Since I’m writing this the day before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent – I’ll give you an example of the title as first line in this time-appropriate poem.

The day holds its people

to star words and crystal
globes, to apron strings
and past experiences,
to present predicaments
and verdicts of guilt.

Who so bound
can stand?

Oh, praise! Oh,
praise the Son
of Man!

Praise Christ,
Who bound
to the cross
for our sins,
willingly died.

Praise our Lord
Who cuts us free
with the sword
thrust into His side.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, and included in PRAISE! – the book of contemporary psalms and prayer-poems published by Cladach Publishing

PRAISE! paperback


  1. Beautiful words! He is worthy of all praise. Thanks for sharing your love of the Lord with others.


  3. Oh, thank you, Jo-Marie. God is so good!