“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1)
Psalm 103 is one of the Bible’s most beautiful passages about God’s grace. The author, King David, is well-known for his worship of the Lord. And here, he sets out to remind himself and his readers of wondrous things, namely about God’s character (how He feels about us) and His works (what He does for us).
The first time I read Psalm 103, I was overwhelmed. The gladness and gratitude in David’s tone were so clear. And the list of what he shared left me feeling a deep sense of humility. In fact, I was reminded of another of David’s Psalms, where he asks God, “What is man that You are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)
I’ve found David to be a great example of how to live a life that’s full of worship. He wasn’t perfect at it, but his desire was always to stay close to God, no matter what was going on in his life. One way he did this was by making a habit of lifting up praise. And the more I’ve followed David’s lead to “Bless the Lord,” the more connected I’ve felt to God.
What “Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul” Means in Psalm 103
Blessing God may sound strange to us, or even a little backward. For a while, I wondered why David chose that word, too. But the dictionary definition of “bless” includes this: “to make or pronounce holy; to extol as holy and to glorify.” Some synonyms I found for it are “honor, magnify, praise, exalt, hallow, and laud.”
Looking at different Bible translations reveals how similar the words “bless” and “praise” are, as both are used.
- American Standard translation: “Bless Jehovah, O my soul…”
- New Living Translation: “Let all that I am praise the Lord…”
- English Standard Version: “Bless the Lord, O my soul…”
- New International Version: “Praise the Lord, my soul…”
Through the Psalm, we can learn some lessons about the kind of blessing that pleases God. In the beginning of Psalm 103, David shows us how to bless the Lord.
Psalm 103:1: “Bless the Lord, all that is within me…”
He calls us to give our whole selves to worship. Jesus later expanded on this idea when He said to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). And Paul urged us to be “living sacrifices” to God. (Romans 12:1)
Psalm 103:2: “Bless the Lord and forget not all his benefits…”
David also wrote in Psalm 77:11, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord…” Like Jesus’ mother Mary, we can ‘treasure in our hearts’ what God has already done on our behalf, to build our confidence and faith.
In the middle of Psalm 103, David lays out why to give a blessing to the Lord. Just thinking about each item he names should start turning our hearts to praise.
Psalm 103:3-7: “He forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases He redeems our lives from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion. He satisfies our desires with good things. He works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known His ways and deeds.”
Next, David talks about some character traits which stir us to bless the Lord. Forgiveness toward us (Psalm 103:9-12), compassion on us (Psalm 103:13-16) compassion on us, and love for us (Psalm 103:17-18).
And in the last section of Psalm 103, David states who is to bless the Lord: angels, hosts, and his works.
By the end of the Psalm, David has made the case for God’s worthiness to receive praise and invites other believers to join him.
Why Blessing the Lord Is Good for Our Soul
David knew that making a habit of praise was vital to his spiritual health. The time he spent in prayer, journaling, and making music for God helped to keep his foundation of faith strong. Worship was truly his lifeline and sustained him through many battles, missteps, and times of great trial. It also became a legacy that he passed onto future generations.
Over the years, I’ve seen how regular times of blessing God has changed me. Remembering what He has done quickly makes me aware of His goodness. Lifting God up and acknowledging His majesty puts me in my proper place. As my level of joy and contentment grows, I want to share with others what my Heavenly Father is like.
When we continue to think about God’s goodness and to appreciate it, we will start taking on some of His character. We will reflect more of His love, grace, and compassion in our own attitudes and behavior toward other people in our lives, and become more like His Son.
How “Bless the Lord Oh My Soul” Has Inspired Other Writers
Many hymn and songwriters have been inspired by this main point of Psalm 103. In 2011, Matt Redman wrote and recorded one entitled “10,000 Reasons.” He actually quotes David’s first exclamation, then goes on to make his own list of what he praises God for. For me, the lyrics always stir up a sense of awe of how much God loves us. Click here to listen to “10,000 Reasons.”
The British poet James Montgomery composed a poem called “Stand Up And Bless The Lord that captures the idea behind this chapter in Psalms. The complete poem can be found here.
And the great preacher Charles Spurgeon used the idea to offer this wisdom: “Praise is the rehearsal of our eternal song. By grace we learn to sing, and in glory we continue to sing. What will some of you do when you get to heaven, if you go on grumbling all the way? Do not hope to get to heaven in that style. But now begin to bless the name of the Lord.”
A Prayer to Bless the Lord
Gracious Lord, I’m coming before You now, not to ask for anything, but simply to give you a blessing. As David wrote, “You are “most worthy of praise,” and I don’t want to keep silent.
There is no other God but You. I have seen Your glory, majesty, and grace and am humbled by how powerful You are. Yet, I also know that You are filled with love and that You desire to pour it out over Your people. We are so undeserving, but You continue to seek a relationship with us. How amazing!
If I were to start naming all that You have done for me, my list would never end. You have been my Creator, Protector, Provider, and Heavenly Father. Your presence in my life alone would be enough, but You have given me so much more.
I can never repay You, but I can continue to lift up blessings to You. Please, God, help me to always declare my praises, both in quiet prayer and in public.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Psalm 103 was one of the first of David’s writings to show me just how much God is working in and around us. It taught me that I need to keep remembering and recounting what I see. Then my soul will be renewed and aligned with what God is doing. And like David, I’ll find even more reasons to praise Him.
“...your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom” (Psalm 145:10-12).
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Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby! You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com
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