Make the songs your prayer…

Linda Lawton

Boulder SDB Church, CO

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” — Luke 10:27

Music has always been an integral part of my life. I grew up in a church where every service included an anthem by the choir, in addition to other special music, and where the congregation sang ALL the parts in the hymns. I learned to appreciate the rich harmonies of an earlier generation at a very early age. More than that, the singing of hymns was the beginning of my theological education. Indeed, hymn writers like Martin Luther and Charles Wesley believed hymns were a means of teaching theology. My early years taught me to love God with all my strength and all my mind, to engage my brain in worship and to evaluate the truth of what I was singing.

I spent 22 years in that church. After I was married, I began to experience other churches, other traditions. In one of those, a very dear friend introduced me to “Contemporary Christian praise music.” It was through this music that I learned to love God with all my heart and all my soul. When I feel impassioned about something, I speak with my entire body, and my hands are always in motion. The culture of praise music was such that I felt free to let my passion for God be expressed not only through my voice but through raising my hands in worship, whether I am singing hymns or praise songs.

One thing from my early years is ingrained in me, however. What we are singing must make sense, spiritually, theologically, and even (dare I say it?) grammatically. There is, to my mind, no excuse for singing something in praise to God which we would not speak to Him in prayer, no matter how beautiful the music. This means that there are both hymns and “worship songs” which should probably never be sung, not because they are not beautiful, but because they point the worshipper back to him or herself, and do not direct us toward God, the true object of our worship.

In 2 Samuel 6, David wears nothing but a linen ephod and dances before the Lord in joy as he brings the Ark back to Jerusalem “with shouting and the sound of the trumpet” (vs 15). Other verses speak of praising God with tambourine and dance, loud clashing cymbals (Psalm 150), with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs

(Eph 5:19, Col 3:16), and kneeling and bowing down (Psalm 95:6). These verses point to a multitude of ways to worship God. My daughter-in-law is a born-again Roman Catholic Christian, and I enjoy attending worship with her. The Catholic service encourages me to worship my creator by engaging all my senses through beautiful surroundings, much singing by celebrant and congregation, alternately standing, sitting and kneeling, and use of incense in some congregations.

 

When I took the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” course, perhaps the most powerful verses to me were those from Revelation 7:9-12. When I read these verses, I see the great multitude of every nation, and tribe, and people, and tongue, all bowing down before the Lord; I hear the glorious cacophony of praise from all these people worshipping Him in their own language, their own music, their own way, and it stirs my heart. God has not ordained that men worship Him

in only one way. Our congregational worship services should strive to be a reflection of the great worship that is going on in Heaven!

Come to Conference. If you cannot sing with the hymns or praise music, then listen and make the songs your prayer to God. I will gladly stand next to you and raise my hands as you sit quietly. Together we will worship.

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