Music has had a powerful impact on my life. From my toddler years to today , I have always had a certain style that I was into that has changed over the years. I’ve liked it all from The Beatles’ “Help” to Disco to Pop Punk to Drake’s “God’s Plan”, but no music has had a greater effect on me than Praise and Worship.
Praise and Worship is more than just a bunch of people singing a song together in a room with their hands in the air. It’s more than simply a genre of music. It’s a way to pray to God and a way to grow closer to Him.
The lyrics are usually simple, reflective, and repeated. Successful songs have lyrics that speak what many people feel or know in their relationship with God using themes of Surrender, Exultation, Offering, Hope, God’s Love, Salvation and more. They are words that many relate to and make their own in their conversation with God.
I can’t tell how many times the words of a P&W song I have prayed have allowed me to communicate exactly what I want to say to God or have uplifted me in a certain situation. Some songs in which I have recently experienced this, that I would recommend, are “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher, “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship, and “No Longer Slaves” by Bethel.
The lyrics of each of these songs have tremendous weight to them, and could be beautiful prayers on their own. However, they have the added bonus of being a prayer that is put to catchy, uplifting, and memorable music. And music has a way to move the human person in ways that have lasting effects on us.
We hear a song sometimes and it takes us right to another time and place when we heard that song in the past. I hear “I don’t want to miss a thing” by Aerosmith and I am taken right to the 7th grade at a dance in the cafeteria of my middle school. I was really sweaty and mouthing words I did not understand.
Music can improve our moods. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley will always cheer me up. Music can feel good. Try listening to the James Egbert EDM Remix of Chance the Rappers’s Blessings. It’s incredible.
Mixed with the prayer of the lyrics in praise and worship, music can do even more great things. It accompanies our words to allow us to sing to God in a special way. If “Prayer is the surge of the heart”, as St. Therese says, then the music of P&W can help move the heart to Him in a quick and beautiful way.
One can technically say this about all Christian music, as it all usually has this same goal of leading others to love God more. I’m not trying to split hairs or define the genre of P&W. Really, I am talking about any song that you can pray with to honor God and build your relationship with Him. I’ll let others categorize which songs should meet this standard, as I think it could be a fruitful task, while I would rather go further on to why I think P&W is an important way to pray and grow closer to God.
First, it allows one to make an act of Faith, Hope, or Love in a deeper way than speaking the words. It seems to me that there is a difference in saying I Love You and singing it with more emotion behind the words. I think this allows us to communicate to God, others, and ourselves our Faith and Hope in God and our Love for Him.
Saying the words is fine, I think singing is better. It puts more action behind the words. It shows God we mean or want to mean what we say, especially when we put our hearts into it.
This is important with our relationship with God because He will never force us to do or receive anything. Through this act of Faith proclaimed in P&W we give Him permission to work in our lives. We say yes to Him.
Next, Praise and Worship makes it easier to pray. We can still have deep profound moments of prayer without P&W, and these can be very beautiful. However, a catchy song can be really fun to sing. So with the prayerful words backed by a good melody we can put ourselves before the throne of God in a more enjoyable way. This can be especially helpful for those who are beginning their faith journeys and learning how to pray.
Furthermore, P&W awakens the Davidic tradition of invoking the spectrum of emotions while praying. We see in the Psalms, which were either written by David the harpist and king or in imitation of him, a vast array of emotions such as gratitude for God’s Goodness, sadness from loss, or trust in the Lord, Our Shepherd. Interestingly enough, the Psalms are songs that were sung in the Temple Liturgies before the time of Christ, but also are beautiful songs that have profound, prayerful lyrics. We can see then a Biblical model for P&W. In fact, many great Worship songs are based on the Psalms.
While He is not restricted to it, the Holy Spirit works through music. Powerful moments of prayer can come about for those involved. I think it is a beautiful way to express one’s Faith and Love for God and it is a good time for the Church to promote it more in today’s world.