Last week Chris was helping us pray using the Psalms and I think this leads us nicely on to this week’s topic music. You see I can remember as a child being in services where psalms were sung and we on occasion still do that in our services. During lockdown I have been using the Church of England daily prayer app and this has recently changed to give a spoken option, by that I mean one you listen to. And this on occasion includes chanting the psalms. But psalms can also appear in the oddest places. For example, U2 on their album War included this song simply called 40
I waited patiently for the Lord He inclined and heard my cry He brought me up out of the pit Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song I will sing, sing a new song How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song? How long, how long, how long How long to sing this song?
You set my feet upon a rock And made my footsteps firm
Many will see, many will see and hear
I will sing, sing a new song I will sing, sing a new song I will sing, sing a new song I will sing, sing a new song
How long to sing this song? How long to sing this song? How long, how long, how long How long to sing this song?
A prayer included within a secular album. Psalm 40 is very much a description of prayer in action.
Music plays an important part in our worship and I am sure like me you have missed singing when we have been in church. It is part of our time of prayer; it serves as preparation and guidance into prayer but often, in the rhythm and lyrics, becomes a prayer in itself.
Music also plays an important part in our life. Plato said that “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.” Music communicates, creates, inspires, calms us, it can bring us together but it can also separate. It can be both good and bad in what it imparts, it can unify and divide.
Perhaps Louis Armstrong put it best when he said “music is life itself”; the beat underlying a piece of music whatever the genre is like the beat of life. Music can, through the sound, impact not just on your emotion but it can move us physically; many a time I have come out of a concert with ringing ears and a sore throat from singing, well shouting along.
Beethoven said “Music can change the world” and Elton John once said “music has healing power”. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.
Music and prayer are linked; one can and does lead on to another.
One of the things I have picked up on through lockdown is how much people have missed live music in all its formats. We have missed our hymns in worship, musicals, live bands. People have missed the connection that music can bring. Musicals, live performances, festivals have been cancelled, postponed and rearranged. Local bands unable to practice together do so over the internet using a click track. Not sure what that is but I think it is like the beat of the music; there it is again, that life beat, the rhythm of our life. Think of the last concert you attended, or when you sang with others, how did it make you feel.
Having listened to the above song you will probably, and quite rightly assume my musical tastes edge (no pun intended) towards the loud, guitar-based variety. Psalm 100 in the King James Bible proclaims “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” which sums up my music catalogue very well, noise. In my youth I would go and watch the likes of Whitesnake, AC/DC, U2 and Queen, a real joyful noise. The first and last concert I took Karen to was Status Quo – “never again” was her assessment. Each to their own, music is like that.
Over the next few days, we shall listen to music, read lyrics and in doing so consider what they tell us, and, as people of faith, what, if anything, God is saying to us through them.
Hopefully this will help you look at prayer in a different way, that prayer can be seen in the oddest of places. Prayer like music moves the soul. I am sure this will be challenging to us all, because we don’t all like the same thing. I will listen and watch to most things live but I struggle with classical music, and musicals, I’ve never warmed to rap or Jazz music; ballet and opera are a real challenge. But it would be a very boring world if we liked the same thing. We don’t all see prayer in the same way either, for me it’s a conversation with God, and often I find music helps with that connection.
It is quite odd perhaps that in Lent I am asking you to listen if possible, to what isn’t always going to be in keeping with the whole silence, contemplative, prayerful idea of Lent, but I hope over the next few days you will get something out of what has been prepared. One of the things I have been doing during lockdown is learning Spanish and one of the “top tips” recommended is to write down at the end of each lesson new words or phrases. I am going to suggest that you do same here. Just write down what you have found useful, informative, good, bad about the music each day.
Is there within the music something about prayer?
I am not going to have you read a great deal apart from lyrics as this is a listening exercise. I am sure you will find some you like and am quite prepared for you to find some to be rubbish, but that’s the other aspect of music. It speaks to each us as an individual. Which I believe fits in with our faith. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit speaks to each of us, calls us where we are. Hopefully this week the music will help us face within face upwards and face outwards to consider the power music has in our lives and our world and in Lent can we learn something new.
Resources compiled by Revd Marcus Bulcock