Can the Dead Rise Up to Praise? (Psalm 88)
O God of my salvation
Do you not hear?
My soul is full of trouble
And death is near
You sunk me to the bottom
Among the dead
Your wrath is heavy on me
I have no friend
Can the dead rise up to praise?
Sing of mercy from the grave?
Is your faithfulness proclaimed
Even in the darkest place?
I cry in prayer before you
You hide your face
Your wrath has overwhelmed me
I can't escape
Your terrors have destroyed me
They flood the day
All those who ever loved me
Are far away
But I cry out to you
Every morning I pray
Will you shut out my soul?
Will you still turn away?
Recommended keys: Cm, C#m, Dm
Bb C Dm C/A [V1] Bb C O God of my salvation Dm C/A Do you not hear? Bb C My soul is full of trouble Dm C/A And death is near Bb C You sunk me to the bottom Dm C/A Among the dead Bb C Your wrath is heavy on me Dm C/A I have no friend [C] Bb C Dm F Can the dead rise up to praise? Bb C Dm F Sing of mercy from the grave? Bb C Dm F Is your faithfulness proclaimed Bb C Dm Am Even in the darkest place? [V2] Bb C I cry in prayer before you Dm C/A You hide your face Bb C Your wrath has overwhelmed me Dm C/A I can't escape Bb C Your terrors have destroyed me Dm C/A They flood the day Bb C All those who ever loved me Dm C/A Are far away [C2] But I cry out to you Every morning I pray Will you shut out my soul? Will you still turn away?
Towards the end of 2014, Isaac Wardell from Bifrost Arts posted online asking for song submissions written from the Psalms. I was having an awful evening and a generally low time when I saw the post, so I turned to Psalm 88 - famously the bleakest psalm in Scripture - picked up my guitar and sang. This song is the result.
The lyrics closely follow the lines of the Psalm. I took the middle series of questions and made them a chorus. Somehow those questions give comfort even as they're never answered. Their themes are deeply engaged by the new Testament, but part of the comfort of the Psalm is that it never resolves.
The writing process taught me a lot about how this kind of psalm functions as faithful worship, and the song was a great help to me through my own situation.
I sent a demo to Isaac. A few weeks later he got in touch and asked to record the song for what became the Bifrost Arts 'Lamentations' album.
Notes for Worship Leaders
I actually haven't used this with a congregation yet, although I know others have. An uncompromising theme.
The Bifrost Arts version is a tone lower than my version and varies the melody a little. I've produced a lead sheet in the Bifrost key and with the Bifrost verse chords for those who are looking for that version.
The Bifrost Arts version of this song was released on their beautiful 2016 album 'Lamentations':
Most of the links on this page are to the Bifrost version, but I've left my own demo version in the player at the top.