Praying twice

Come, let’s sing out loud to the Lord!

Let’s raise a joyful sound to the rock of our salvation

Let’s come before him with thanks!

Let’s shout songs of joy to him!
Psalm 95:1 (Common English Bible)

My first theological conversations were shared in song. My first theology textbook was a hymnal. My earliest awareness of God in relationship with me was expressed by the singing voice.

The quote, “He who sings prays twice” is attributed to St. Augustine, although there is evidence that he didn’t say it quite that way.  I still like the meaning of praying twice: when we offer praise to God in music and singing we offer two forms of prayer through the beauty of the music and the singing of the words.

While I was not aware of it at the time, my mother and grandmother were the first theologians and teachers of my faith journey.  Their lessons were taught in the form of song – “Jesus loves me this I know.  For the Bible tells me so” or “Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, faces all aglow!” taught me of God’s love and my place in this world.

The voices of a congregation joining together in song became a lecture hall affirming and instructing me in what it means to be called to live as a community of faith – “Love lifted me. Love lifted me.  When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!” and “Leaning, leaning.  Leaning on the everlasting arms!”

Song helped me express the depth of my sorrow in the darkest moments of my journey.  I was comforted to hear “Oh yes, he cares! I know he cares/ His heart is touched with my grief/ When the days are weary the long night dreary, I know my Jesus cares” and assured of my faith by “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun/We’ve no less days to sing God’s grace than when we’ve first begun.”

The melody of music lifts me to grand and glorious heights listening to the Hallelujah Chorus and grounds me in The Church’s One Foundation.  I am reminded of the history of the Christian faith through the centuries as I hear songs like, Onward Christian Soldiers or Stand up, stand up for Jesus.

I’ve prayed twice many times in my journey. I’ve listened and still hear the voices of others who were my teachers in faith, my fellow pray-ers, and whose voices live in my heart when I join new voices.  I’ve been privileged to learn new prayers in the form of music written by, in and for a new generation.

As this Lenten journey continues I find my attention turning less and less from the narrative of the season and more to the music derived from the narrative.  A few weeks from now, I will journey with Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem with the music of All Glory Laud and Honor ringing in my ears.  I will be in the upper room singing “Let us break bread together…Let us drink the cup together…” and I will shudder at the words and melody of “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” on Good Friday. I will keep time between Good Friday and Easter morning with the words of The Old Rugged Cross filling my heart and mind.

Then, on Easter, I will rejoice when I raise my voice to sing, “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!”

May you recognize the power of music and prayer in whatever form it takes.  May your heart rise and fall, your faith be informed and expressed, your journey be made meaningful in whatever songs of faith you know and appreciate as you continue your journey.

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One thought on “Praying twice

  1. Amen and amen, Edward!

    One of the things I most like about the new PC(USA) hymnal is the history of each hymn–in very human terms. Our hymn writers too were praying. “Near to the Heart of God,” by Cleland McAfee (in both the new and previous hymnals), was written by a friend of my late boss and mentor’s mother; he wrote it on the death of two young nieces from diphtheria. I knew that when we sang it at my mentor’s funeral, at his request; the new hymnal explains it and I think gives the hymn itself even more meaning.

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