Why is music so powerful? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said music is the universal language of humanity, and I believe it is the language of God. From melodies that lift our minds to heaven to lyrics that move us to beats that mimic our heartbeats, God has left a song in the world.
Because I think music is the language of God, in my imagination, God created the world through song. This is probably why one of my favorite stories is the creation story from The Magician’s Nephew in the Chronicles of Narnia series.
In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to song. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he has ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it…
Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by the other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. There were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leapt out – single stars, constellations, and planet, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing…
Then the Voice on the earth was now louder and more triumphant; but the voices in the sky, after singing loudly with it for a time, began to get fainter. And now something else was happening.
Far away, and down near the horizon, the sky began to turn grey. A light wind, very fresh, began to stir. The sky, in that one place, grew slowly and steadily paler. You could see shapes of hills standing up dark against it. All the time the Voice went on singing…
The eastern sky changed from white to pink and fro pink to gold. The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it. And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose.
Digory had never seen such a sun… You could imagine that it laughed for joy as it came up. And as its beams shot across the land the travellers could see for the first time what sort of place they were in. It was a valley through which a broad, swift river wound its way, flowing eastward towards the sun. Southward there were mountains, northward there were lower hills. But it was a valley of mere earth, rock, and water; there was not a tree, not a bush, not a blade of grass to be seen. The earth was of many colors: they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else. It was a Lion. Huge, shaggy, and bright, it stood facing the risen sun.The Magician’s Nephew
In the story, the Lion, Aslan, goes on to create plants, mute animals, and talking animals. He goes on to create Narnia through his song. Can’t you imagine God similarly creating our world? The Word sings out “Let there be light!” and lo and behold, the stars spring to life, or the sun rises with a bright smile. The song of creation continues to resonate within our souls today:
We hear this song in the melodies of the birds.
We hear this song in the pitter-patter of rain against windows.
We hear this song in the groan of the wind.
In the laughter of a child.
In the mourning cry of a family.
St. Augustine said, “to sing is to pray twice.” Music and song connect us to God in a special way. If you’re just beginning to pray with music—the psalms are a great place to start. There are 150 psalms to choose from, and each one is a song for the Lord. Each one is a song that captures, not only the human experience but our relationship with God.
So, how do we pray with music? Here are five steps:
- Choose your song.
If you have no idea where to begin, the psalms are a great place to start. Other suggestions might be your favorite hymn from church or a contemporary praise and worship song. Maybe you heard a song in the car that resonated with you and you would like to take it to prayer. The sky is the limit. *Optional- get the lyrics and follow along. You can jot down notes or underline words/phrases/stanzas that speak to you.*
- Take a few deep breaths.
Once your song is queued up, take a few deep breaths. *Optional- light a candle. * Center yourself and prepare your body, mind, and soul for prayer.
- Enter into the song.
Push play and enter into the song. Listen to the lyrics, follow the melody, and feel the rhythm. If you have the lyrics, note what speaks to you the most. *Optional- this is also a great time to have your prayer journal with you.*
- Sing along or don’t.
To sing is to pray twice so sing along if you feel moved to!
- Let the music lead you into a conversation with God.
You might have to put the song on repeat… talk to God about what the song said to you, what stood out to you, and then spend some time with an open heart and mind listening to God’s response.