Most hymnals will group the songs by theme. For instance, you want to sing a song about the resurrection. You can look at the themes in the back of the hymnal or at the top of the pages and find whole sections of songs about the resurrection of Christ. Or what about songs about God’s goodness or God’s word? Find that section in your hymnal, and there are almost always multiple songs grouped together underneath that theme.
God tells us emphatically, “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:6)! I love that God commands us to do things that are so enjoyable. I love to sing. One practical tool that we have at our disposal is a hymnal. I love hymnals. It’s been a habit of mine to collect hymnals for years. Some are good and some are… well, let’s just say we won’t be singing all of the songs in some hymnals in glory. But there are some great hymnals. It’s amazing to be able to sing songs that the Reformers sang. It’s a privilege to sing songs that have passed the test of time, both the content of the songs and the character of the authors. When we sing these old songs, we are able to confess the truth of God’s Word hand in hand with those who have gone before us. Wonderful stuff. (I love new songs too, but I’m getting to the point).
Often people are intimidated by hymnals. Maybe you think that you have to be able to read music to really enjoy a hymnal. Maybe you think you need to be able to play an instrument (or carry a tune) to sing those songs. I hope to dispel those rumors! I want to give you some practical ways to use a hymnal in personal, family, and corporate worship.
Enjoy the Poetry
Good hymn writers take the beautiful words of God and turn them into beautiful pieces of poetry. Here’s an example: “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free, His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me” (O For a Thousand Tongues). Or what about this one from John Newton: “Now let us join with hearts and tongues, And emulate the angels’ songs; Yea, sinners may address their King, In songs that angels cannot sing. They praise the Lamb who once was slain; But we can add a higher strain; Not only say, “He suffer’d thus, “But that he suffer’d all for us” (Men Honoured Above Angels).