Prayer and Singing

The Holy Spirit in Worship (part 3)

The music and singing of the church, of course, is the part of the service that is usually given the special status of “worship,” which isn’t entirely fair. But when we suppress communion to a rare occasion in the church, and eliminate any opportunity for Spiritual Gifts, we are left with two major activities in the church, one which seems active and another which seems passive. It becomes easy to think of one of them as “worship” and the other not. One solution to this dichotomy is simply to talk about how each part of the service is worship and how. But I think a better one would be to give more place to the other elements of worship and to emphasize the active role of the Holy Spirit working through us in these activities. If we see that we participate in worship through the Holy Spirit, then any activity in which the Spirit has a part should easily be seen as worship.

Ironically, it is the musical part of the service that it is most difficult to explain what part the Spirit must play in order to move us from mere activity into an active participation in the relationship of the Trinity. I think this is simplified, though, by thinking of singing as a form of prayer, set to music. With this in mind, we can see that the Spirit must be actively involved in our music. Romans 8:26 says, “… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” This verse, applied to songs, can be understood to say that the Holy Spirit invests his intercession into our songs, making up for the imperfections of the songs, and praying through them a more perfect prayer. This is an internally discernable experience, similar to reading the scriptures and having a particular verse “quickened” to you, or perhaps how it was for prophets to be “carried along” by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). It might also be understood to apply to a special kind of singing that might resemble the groanings of the Spirit interceding through us. This kind of wordless singing could then possibly be understood under the heading of Paul’s references to singing “with my spirit” (1 Cor 14:15).

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