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