Sing Once, Pray Twice, or Just Sing Already
“Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!” – Psalm 150:3 NRSV
“He who sings, prays twice,” said the great church reformer Martin Luther. I’ve always thought that was kind of unfair to the people who don’t like to sing.
But there is a work-around solution. For those of you who prefer to silently stare at your feet when everyone else is singing a hymn, just go home and pray for that same amount of time. And then double it.
Or you could just sing along.
Some verses seem to write themselves on our hearts when we mouth the words, even if we do so very, very quietly. Take this lovely hymn by Fred Pratt Green, one of the best-known of the contemporary school of hymnwriters in the British Isles.
When in our music God is glorified
And adoration leaves no room for pride
It is as if the whole creation cried: Alleluia!
That verse explains why church musicians do not take a bow or expect applause. They are not performing for an audience; they are worshiping God.
So when the rest of us hear their music, our response is worship too. Sometimes we respond with reverential silence, other times we clap, sometimes our jaws drop and other times we shed a tear. It’s all a response to the Holy Spirit, something we do for God, not for other people.
“How often making music we have found, a new dimension in the world of sound, which leads us to a more profound Alleluia!”
Lillian Daniel is the Senior Minister of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Dubuque, Iowa, and the author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” is Not Enough.