When I was a little boy, I would often sit down by my older sister, Charlane when she played the piano. We sang hundreds of hymns and spiritual songs together. One day, Charlane said something I will never forget. She reminded me that when we were singing hymns and spiritual songs, we were praying together. She said we were, (1) singing to our souls by reminding ourselves of God’s truths, (2) singing to each other which was encouraging to both of us, and (3)—most significantly—we were singing songs to our Creator and Redeemer.
Charlane said that God made it so easy to pray when we sing songs to him. I am so grateful that my sister reminded me that singing is a form of prayer.
Most of my College Park friends long for a more robust prayer life. Yet surprisingly, not many of my friends incorporate singing as a form of prayer in their personal lives, their family life, and their community life. Here are a few ways I enjoy the gift of singing and how it has helped me.
1. Singing Provides Healthy Solitude
Singing has provided healthy solitude for me in two key ways:
- Devotions – a portion of my devotion time in the morning is singing. I have songs I sing when I am tapped out, groggy, and sad; songs to sing when I am full of hope. And I have songs that I grew up singing.
- Redeeming drive time – When I drive from my home in Brookside to College Park Church where I work, my Spotify playlist is on and I am singing. Especially on Sundays, this practice prepares my heart for worship. It is also amazing how less frustrated I get with slow traffic and careless drivers when I am singing. My commute to work is twenty-three minutes, and singing has redeemed my drive time.
2. Singing Has Strengthened My Marriage
My wife, Sarah, and I have been married for over forty years. Singing together has been a sustaining source in our marriage. We do not sing together daily, but a few times a week, we sing when we are driving together or before we go to bed. It smooths out the wrinkles in our relationship. It reminds us that we have more in common than in contrast. Sarah sings harmonies well, so it also serves as a reminder of the unity and diversity in marriage.
3. Singing Has Helped Us Disciple Future Generations
My adult children have a bedrock of songs that we sang when they were growing up. In hindsight, I forced singing into their lives in a way that was not organic, and not healthy. So, now that we have grandchildren who are at our house regularly, I am building singing into their lives in a less structured way than I did with my own children. A couple of my grandchildren now ask me if we can sing whenever they come over. So, we find favorite songs on Spotify, use a Bose mini-speaker, and sing together.
At the risk of being overly dramatic, I will share that one of my life goals is for my grandchildren to remember singing with their grandpa, long after I am gone from this earth.
4. Singing Provides Community Life
My friend David Palmer is also a prayer partner, neighbor, and guitar player. At least once a week, we get together just to sing—we consider it a form of corporate prayer and have a great time praying together in song. Sometimes we sing before we intercede for our families and our ministries. Our singing becomes a path for God to tune our hearts.
Singing has also helped Sarah and me as we engage with others in our home. When we host people, we often invite them to sing with us. It might feel a bit strange at the beginning, but an open, transparent, and intimate spirit seems to permeate our home when we sing with other Christians. I think it might be due to the vulnerability of singing together.
The same is true of Sunday mornings. I love singing on Sunday mornings at College Park Church. Sometimes I really love the choice and style of music and sing robustly. Other times, I might not love the choice and style of music. Yet, I sing robustly anyway because it is not about me and my preferences.
Plus, I have found that the more I sing outside of the Sunday service, the easier it is to be aligned to the praise of Sunday singing and worship.
Why I Value Singing
Some of you are looking for a straightforward path to a more robust prayer life. Some of you are craving a path for living with a renewed mind. Here’s a simple gift from God towards making you whole: singing. . .alone, with your family, or with your church.
Eugene Peterson summarizes this excellently when he paraphrases Ephesians 5:19:
Drink the Spirit of God, huge drafts of him. . .Sing hymns. . .Sing songs from your heart to Christ. . .Sing praises over everything. . .any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.