I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry (refrain) (Psalm 116)

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I love the Lord; he heard my cry.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The cry of thanks expressed in Psalm 116 is illustrated in other narratives, particularly in the New Testament. See, for example, the story of the Canaanite Woman in Matthew 18:21-28, the leper in Mark 1:40-45, the paralyzed man in Mark 2:1-12, Lazarus’s friends and family in John 11:45 and 12:1-3, and other similar instances.

I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry (refrain) (Psalm 116)

Call to Worship

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord ;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord , and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
—Psalm 34:1-4, 8, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

I love the LORD  , for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD :
“LORD , save me!”

The LORD  is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The LORD  protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD  has been good to you.
For you, LORD , have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD 
in the land of the living.
I trusted in the LORD  when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said,
“Everyone is a liar.”

What shall I return to the LORD 
for all his goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD .

I will fulfill my vows to the LORD 
in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the LORD 
is the death of his faithful servants.
Truly I am your servant, LORD ;
I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD .
I will fulfill my vows to the LORD 


The psalmist declares:
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
We gather as a community in need of a Savior.
We offer our honest confession,
in faith and trust in our covenant God,
knowing that God hears our voice.
—based on Psalm 116:1-2, NRSV
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry (refrain) (Psalm 116)

Tune Information


I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry (refrain) (Psalm 116)

Hymn Story/Background

The text is the first two verses of a paraphrase of Psalm 116:1-4 by Isaac Watts, known as the “father of English hymnody.” Watts’ controversial settings of the psalms soon became very popular in many Presbyterian churches in the United States.
Psalm 116 is the sixth of eight "hallelujah" psalms (Psalms 111-118) that are used in the "Egyptian Hallel" used in Jewish liturgy at the annual religious festivals prescribed in the Torah. At Passover, Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the meal; 115 through 118 were sung after the meal. In this liturgical use, the singular personal pronoun was understood corporately, and the references to "death" alluded to Israel's slavery in Egypt. The "cup of salvation" probably referred originally to the festal cup of wine that climaxed a thank offering for a special deliverance or blessing. When this psalm was used in the Passover celebration, the "cup of salvation" was no doubt understood to be the cup of wine accompanying that festal meal. In singing this psalm, we join the psalmist in confessing our love for the LORD for deliverance from death in answer to prayer, and we praise God's gracious ways that encourage us to keep trusting and to rest in the LORD.
In Southern Presbyterian churches, Afrian-American slaves sitting in the balconies also grew to know and love the psalms of “Dr. Watts,” as he was affectionately named by them. This refrain is a portion of the full song by the same name, which appears in Lift Up Your Hearts  #439. The tune is an anonymous African-American tune, harmonized by (and named after) Richard Smallwood, a composer and recording artist (www.richardsmallwood.com). Smallwood, along with two other men at Howard University, started the first black gospel choir on a college campus in the United States.

Author Information

Isaac Watts (b. Southampton, England, 1674; d. London, England, 1748) was a precocious student and voracious reader. As a youth he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew. He declined an offer to study at Oxford and chose instead to attend an independent academy in Stoke Newington (1690-1694). From 1696 to 1701 Watts was tutor for the family of Sir John Hartopp, and in 1702 he became the pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London. However, ill health, which he had suffered for some years, took a serious turn in 1712. After that time he served the Mark Lane Chapel only on a part-time basis and moved in to the estate of Sir Thomas Abney to became the family chaplain, a position he held for the rest of his life. During the following thirty-six years Watts was a prolific author–writing books about theology, philosophy (including an influential textbook, Logic), and education, as well as con­ducting a voluminous correspondence.
Today, Watts is best remembered for his psalm paraphrases and hymns. Many of his contemporaries were exclusive psalm singers. After complaining about the poor quality of many of the psalm paraphrases, the teenager Watts was challenged by his father, "Give us something better!" So he began to write new psalm versifications in which he deliberately chose not to follow closely the King James text but instead to interpret the Old Testament psalms through contemporary British Christian and New Testament eyes.
The next step was to write hymns rather than Scripture paraphrases. What he called "hymns of human composure" established him as the creator of the modern English hymn; he is known as the "father of English hymnody." Altogether, Watts wrote more than six hundred psalm and hymn texts, which were published in his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), Divine Songs . . . for the Use of Children (1715), The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), and Sermons and Hymns (1721-1727). Most of Watts' texts use the traditional British ballad meters (Short Meter, Common Meter, and Long Meter) and state their theme in often memorable first lines. His work became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, including the United States, where, following the American Revolution, Watts' texts were edited by Timothy Dwight in 1801 to remove their British connotations. Several of his versifications and hymns are still found in most hymnals; especially loved are the paraphrase of Psalm 90, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" (405), and the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (175).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Richard Smallwood (b. Washington, D.C., 1948), a composer, arranger, pianist, and innovator in the African American gospel style. Many of his arrangements of gospel hymns appear in Lift Every Voice and Sing (1981). Organized by Smallwood in 1967, the Richard Smallwood Singers have sung and recorded many of his arrangements. He remains their current director. Smallwood has a B.M. degree from Howard University, Washington, DC.
— Bert Polman
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