The Singer: when words alone are not enough

September 18, 2013 — 1 Comment

Recently a close friend was going through a very hard time in her life. As I listened to her story, I found myself taking on her burden. My heart felt so heavy, thinking about what she was experiencing and not being able to fix it for her, as much as I wished I could.

The next morning I talked with God about the situation and the concern I had for my friend. Having recently reflected on how God intends us to bear each other’s burdens, I was glad to carry my friend’s during this difficult time.

But as I prayed, whatever words I could come up with seemed inadequate. They didn’t seem to fully express what was in my heart. After praying, I still felt burdened. I chose a psalm to read but soon I reached the end of it.

I continued my morning routine, which usually includes exercising while listening to worship music. I’m often encouraged by the songs about God’s love and faithfulness, and challenged by the songs of commitment and surrender. The music and lyrics lift me up and inspire me.

That day I found myself singing not for myself, but for my friend. I began to change the words from ‘me’ to ‘her’, from ‘I’ to ‘she’. The songs became a kind of prayerful meditation, like the original psalms were intended. The music slowed me down, and the words gave expression to what I was feeling for my friend. My prayers were centered in my heart, not just in my mind.
IMG_7805

In the last few weeks, this has become the primary way I pray for family and friends, from my octogenarian mom to less-than-one-year old Nora. I still sing songs of praise to God, but I also sing songs of lament and hope and affirmation for those on my heart. This form of slow prayer enables me to pour out my heart to God and share my concern with Him.

Here’s a playlist of some of the prayers I’ve sung [or songs I've prayed, take your pick], with easy-to-edit lyrics:
Healer
The Power of Your Love
Jesus, Be the Center
Savior, Like a Shepherd lead…her/him
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
Guide me/her/him,O Thou Great Jehovah
Mighty to Save
You Never Let Go

And just now, in the middle of writing this, I hear news that breaks my heart and brings me to tears. I don’t think we have many hymns of sadness and comfort these days. What songs can we sing for someone in a prison cell who has been beaten and tortured for their faith?

I find two,
When the Tears Fall,
and Grace and Peace
and I sing them for M.; an unknown friend who has suffered much.

What about you? What songs would you suggest for praying and carrying burdens of others?

One response to The Singer: when words alone are not enough

  1. 

    Annie, Thank you for sharing these songs you like to sing during times of prayers. The recessional my wife and I used at our wedding 35 years ago was “Jesus like a shepherd lead us.” … The background on the utube version of “O the deep, deep love of Jesus” is the Rocky Mountain range in Grand Teton National Park in NW Wyoming. The Snake River is winding along in the foreground. I love the park. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet. We camped and hiked there many times with our children. … Last year my wife & I were on one of our favorite hikes up through the cascade canyon way up to Lake Solitude. It’s a stunning 14-mile round trip. We basked in God’s glory. When we got back to the trailhead and got in our car to go back to our campsite, I turned on the radio and heard the news of the shootings in the theater in Aurora, CO. … Oh the tension. We went from God’s stunning creation to being stunned by the news & the evil in the world. The glory of God’s world runs smack into I John 5. “The whole world is under the control of the devil.” … And I remember thinking of Matt Redman’s “You never let go.” We do experience God’s grandeur, yes. He speaks to us through creation, yes. And how wonderful and soothing it is. But C.S. Lewis reminds us that we will outlive the beauty of God’s creation. And in this world we never pretend we are not in a battle — ever. God’s kingdom, his reign, breaks in. The kingdom of darkness is defeated and is being defeated. But we don’t pretend we’re home yet. We are not. And so we grief. So much grieving. But not as those with no hope. Stay at your post, says Paul in Ephesians. And so we do… But we need to be upheld along the way with his Word and with beautiful hymns that encourage us to hang in there as we stay at our post.

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