person on knees, humbly praying

Psalm 3 – O Lord!

 December 19, 2023

“Oh, Lord, what a morning,” has resounded through my head this past week as I reflected on Psalm 3 – O Lord. It was with me as I woke, observing the sun peeping up for its daily trek across the sky and at night when the sun, having completed its course, went to sleep. I later realized that the song is, “My Lord, what a morning.” Still, the sentiment remains. Let’s look at Lord, in the Psalms and how it might connect to this spiritual.

My Lord, What a Morning

My Lord, what a morning is the first line of an African American spiritual. Spirituals are beautiful hymns by an oppressed people, slaves. They resound with the power of hope and lament, much like many of the laments in the book of Psalms. This particular spiritual speaks of the apocalypse, the judgment day.

The chorus: “My Lord, what a morning (3) When the stars begin to fall.” Gives way to the following versus:

You’ll Hear the Trumpet Sound,
To Wake the Nations Underground,
Looking To My God’s Right Hand,
When The Stars Begin to Fall.

You’ll Hear the Sinner Cry,
To Wake the Nations Underground,
Looking To My God’s Right Hand,
When The Stars Begin to Fall.

You’ll Hear the Christian Shout,
To Wake the Nations Underground,
Looking To My God’s Right Hand,
When The Stars Begin to Fall.

It’s a message of hope, if not in this lifetime, then in the next, on judgment day.


Spirituals were often sung as work songs, to aid hard labor. They expressed strong feelings and offered encouragement, inspired by a message of God’s saving grace.

In his book, The Souls of Black Folk : Essays and Sketches, civil rights campaigner W. E. Burghardt Du Bois described the “melody of the slave songs,” or the negro spiritual, as the “articulate message of the slave to the world”: the music “of an unhappy people, of the children of disappointment; they tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wanderings and hidden ways.” My Lord! what a morning (StF 179) (

Morning or Mourning

One version of the song reads morning as mourning, the expression of deep sorrow for someone who has died. How appropriate. To me it speaks of the cries of the slaves, crying out to their Lord.

W.E. Burghardt Du Bois’s suggests a variety of meanings for this particular text:

“The text can mean either morning (the beginning) or mourning (the end). It refers to the morning when the dead will be raised, or the slaves emancipated, but also the false dawn of reconstruction failed. The trumpet sounds will wake the nations of “underground” Americans both black and white to challenge racism and segregation. The metaphor of falling stars may stand for the Union Army’s campfires, the beacons of freedom, or perhaps the great black men whose spirits flash like falling stars in The Souls of Black Folk, a usage that may be traceable to the Kongolese belief that falling stars are “spirits flashing across the sky.” (

Barbara Holmes in her book, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, writes about a rich tradition of contemplation found in African American churches. One that is distinct from my own tradition.

Holmes introduced me to the “moan.” Africans thrown together in the hold of slave ships would unite in a communal moan. Sometimes in the face of unspeakable tragedy, all one can do is moan, and yet that moan can resound to the heavens. Lost in the moan, whether an individual moan or a communal moan, you find God. Another form mourning.

So, yes, My Lord, what a moaning/mourning!

Psalm 3 – O Lord

Lord is one of the most common references to God in the Bible. It appears individually over 150 times in the Psalms, not including phrases such as, Bless the Lord, blessed be the Lord, Angel of the Lord, Ark of the Lord, Covenant of the Lord, Day of the Lord, Hand of the Lord, House of the Lord, Lord your God, Voice of the Lord, and on and on. You get what I’m saying? There are a lot of references!

Some translations of Psalm 3 start with the single word, Lord, others, O Lord. The word Lord appears in six lines of the eight-line Psalm. “O Lord, how many are my foes!” (1) “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me.” (3) “I cry aloud to the Lord.” (4) “I awake again, for the Lord sustains me.” (5) “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God.” (7) “Deliverance belongs to the Lord.” (8) The message is pretty straight forward.

In typical lament fashion the psalmist laments to God about their troubles, then responds in hope, much like spirituals. The writer has hope in God. who is his shield. Thus he sleeps peacefully at night: “I’m not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.” (6)

Lament and Spirituals

To me, spirituals are modern forms of biblical lament. As Rob Brockman says in his article, The Art of Lament:

“Lament is not simply complaining; nor is it spewing trite theological answers. Lament is both expressing our true anguish and pain to our Sovereign King and then finding hope and comfort in the truths of His faithful character and promises.

We have all encountered a time in our lives where, after sharing our grief and pain, a friend chose not to enter into our grief and pain to weep with us, but rather responded with the cold hard truth that lacked the tenderness of sympathy. That is not lament.

Lament is seeing that God enters into our pain, is incarnate with us in our trials, and meets us with His immutable nature. Lament helps us acknowledge our suffering, to not pretend or deny our plight, but then casts our eyes beyond our pain to our eternal hope and reward.”

Spirituals express the same emotions and pain, as well as hope, found in biblical laments.

Crying out to God – Psalm 3 – O Lord

Psalm 3 begins by crying out to our God. What better way to start to pray? We humbly fall on our knees before our God and cry out, O Lord! Sometimes, that may be all the words we need. God hears us in our mourning and moaning, in our trials and challenges, and therein lies hope.

What has been your experience of lament?


This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of  Still Dancingthe second book in my Dancing through Life Series.      click here to sign up

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