Oh, That I Had Wings (Psalm 55)

Update 10/2/20: Sheet music for this song can be downloaded here.

You may have heard that I won the 2017 Church of the Servant New Psalm Contest with my Psalm 40 song, “Patiently.” What you may not have heard is that I lost the contest with my Psalm 55 song, “Oh, That I Had Wings.”

It’s understandable that my setting of Psalm 55 didn’t win. It is not the most endearing Psalm in the Psalter. It’s the plea of someone who has been betrayed and attacked by a former friend. Understandably, the Psalmist wants to beat a hasty retreat: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” These are emotions that most of us have faced, but perhaps few of us are interested in singing about them.

Given the urgency of the Psalm, I wrote a tune that comes in short, breathless bursts. The tight meter could have become trite, but there are lots of harmonic twists and turns to avoid that. The string arrangement on the recording (played by the St. Sinner Orchestra in one take into my laptop) creates a conversation with the melody that pushes the song forward. You can find the string arrangement as well as the piano version at the link above.

1. Listen to my prayer, O God, please hear:
troubled thoughts rise from a heart of fear;
Fear of those who would undo my days—
the whispers, stares, contempt, the lies and rage.

Oh, that I had wings,
Oh, that I had wings to fly,
Oh, that I had wings to fly away.

2. Malice seeks its prey, it roams the streets.
Night and day, it prowls— there is no peace.
God, please let the innocent escape,
while schemers writhe within the traps they’ve laid. (refrain)

3. Bracing for the sword of foe’s attack,
feel the steel of dagger in my back.
Why have you betrayed me, oh my friend?
The one with whom I’ve shared the wine and bread? (refrain)

4. Night and day, I pray, O God, please hear:
troubled thoughts rise from a heart of fear.
Every care that weighs upon my soul
is safe with you, please keep me safe, O Lord. (refrain)

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