Music as Prayer

Music is prayer. You might expect someone who has spent a lifetime in music, someone who works in music ministry, to say that. But what do I mean? Consider…

Music is a full body prayer. We may sway as we listen. We may tap our feet. We may lift our hands. We may even dance! We may close our eyes and let the music take us away. Music moves us. Literally and figuratively. Music touches us and not just emotionally. The sound waves make our ear drums vibrate. Music literally touches us.

And it heals us.

It heals in the listening. It heals in the playing. It heals in the singing.

As we listen, particularly to a song, both sides of our brain are engaged. The melody, harmony, and rhythm engage the right hemisphere of our brain. The lyrics engage the left hemisphere of our brain, where language is processed. Chemicals are naturally released as we listen. The result is that we are inspired and moved by the music. That’s where a physical response comes from like when a song gives you chills, makes you cry, or makes you feel joyful. Listening then, and the emotional and physical responses it naturally creates, nurtures and heals our weary, burdened hearts.

As we play there is the additional component of physical engagement. If we are reading music there is concentration. If we are improvising there is the spontaneous expression that taps into something deep and unfathomable. If we are playing in a group there is teamwork and community, the music becoming a corporate prayer. Our arms, hands, and fingers are engaged. And depending on the instrument, possibly our legs and feet as well. In the case of wood winds or brass their is the added component of breath as the lungs join in the prayer.

Which of course leads us to singing. This us probably the easiest connection for us to make. Our spoken prayers are verbal as are the songs we sing. I once heard it said that singing for an hour is equivalent in exertion to lifting weights. Try it. Singing for an hour is hard, if joyful, work. But it is something we were designed by our creator to do. When we sing, whether we think we are any good at it or not, we are using the voice God gave us to give audible expression to our thoughts and feelings. The deep breaths we take are physically cleansing and emotionally transportive,

Your choice of church music may lean toward contemporary praise and worship. Or you may prefer the hymns of the faith that have endured for years. It doesn’t matter. You may like opera, or country, or rock, or jazz. It doesn’t matter. The same physical and emotional principles are at play in all of the music we play, sing, and listen to.

That is precisely why music is so powerful. It is fundamental to our experience as human beings. As is prayer.

In the book God Calling it says “pray until prayer merges into praise,.” When we sing and play, or even just listen, to honor God I think that’s exactly what happens.

Psalm 149 says “Sing to the Lord a new song…and make music to him.”

So let us pray.