“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful. Praise the Lord with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy.” Psalm 33:1–3
There are two main ways in which a group of people can worship the Lord together: one is to pray together, and the other is by singing and making music. I’ll admit that there are other ways in which we can worship God as a congregation but these two are the most common due to the fact that they are the easiest and most natural for us. Our focus text, and indeed, the Psalms by their very nature, focuses on worshiping God in music.
A few years back I decided to conduct an experiment on myself to test what kind of impact writing songs, particularly spiritual songs, had on a person’s spiritual walk. What I discovered was that the writing of music forced me to experience scripture differently than just reading and thinking about it alone. Many times when we meditate on scripture it’s easy to think only about specific verses or phrases but when you’re putting the words of scripture to music you’re compelled to think about how everything fits together, how one part supports and compliments another and builds to a specific point and you try and harmonize with that syntax as you compose the music. This process often takes days to get right and during that whole time the mind is continually coming back to the words of that passage and the words of scripture take root in the heart in a ways that’s very different from when they come in as words alone.
There’s a similar kind of difference in our worship and our interaction with God’s word when we sing and pray together. It’s a powerful experience to make beautiful music in a congregation of people, whether it’s just a few people or even a few thousand. We’re forced by the very nature of the music to listen to one another as we sing the words and melodies and add in the harmonies and this unites the congregation, if only for the duration of the song, in a way that it may not be at any other time. There are times when this congregational unity, as we’re singing the truths of the Bible, can add a layer or depth of insight that solo experiences with scripture are unable to give.
God deserves the best worship, praise and service we can give him. I try not to pay attention too closely to what other people are doing when we’re singing in church but it’s impossible to not see that many people are not engaged when it comes to participating by worshipping God as we sing. It saddens me. So many opportunities to experience unity with each other and a connection with God are lost simply because we’re not willing or interested in making the effort.
I know not everyone has equal skill or ability when it comes to music but those are not most necessary ingredients when it comes to congregational worship. Far more important are our presence, our interest, and our enthusiastic effort. And these are things we all can give if we will.