Do you have a song list for your faith? Rachel Watkins shares how music brings her closer to God.
If Shakespeare tells us “life is a stage,” my family would say it is a stage giving us the best musical; and this is not because any of us can even sing well. Musicals often get a bad rap as critics will say they don’t reflect real life. "Who breaks out in song out of nowhere?” they wonder. Well, that would be my kids, who often narrated their lives with songs. They readily, and without request, sang songs they knew and had memorized but more often it was songs they made up on the spot.
They sang songs while waking up, while eating breakfast, as they headed out to play and headed off to bed. They even fashioned personal laments when it was chore time. To this day we still sing a Christmas song composed more than 15 years ago by one of my lyrical children with the delightful refrain, “Ride a camel, Baby Jesus; don’t forget to buckle up.” While it lacks any Scriptural truth, it is a dear part of my family’s story.
As they’ve gotten older, sadly for me, their made-up songs have mostly been replaced by real music. Each of them has a favorite genre of music but they all enjoy my husband’s love of Sinatra when he’s making our traditional Saturday big breakfast.
It is nice to know that God likes music as well. Correction, he doesn’t just it like it; he LOVES it. The word sing or song appears in Scripture almost 200 times. The psalms, which are actually songs written, for the most part, by David remind us to sing praises (Psalm 9) while a harsher Psalm 18 which speaks of God’s vengeance, also calls for a song of praise given in thanksgiving for that help. Isaiah reminds us to sing in chapters 44, 49 and 52. Paul tells us in both Ephesians 5:19 and Hebrews 2:12 about lauding God’s in song. Then we have Revelation 15, the end of our faith story as it were, where “those who had won the victory” (Revelation 15:2) are seen singing the song of Moses with harps in hand.
As a reminder, I do not have a good voice and I am not being humble in that. I don’t. But I no longer let this stop me. While I attended Franciscan University in the mid-80s, each Mass was a time of praise and worship to Christ. The music ministry was amazing and everyone joined in, I, however, just murmured the words of the songs under my breath, worried about offending those around me. A dear friend, also musically challenged, reassured me that I was singing for God’s pleasure and not theirs. “Don’t let your lack of ability stop you,” she told me. “After all, you are using the unique voice God gave you. If He doesn’t like it, He can always change it.” We laughed at the possibility of such a silly miracle and joined our flat notes together in song.
Do you recall ever seeing the quote, “those who sing, pray twice”? This reminder to lift your voice (no matter how bad you imagine it is) is attributed to St. Augustine himself. Yes, Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo wants you to remember that singing is prayer twice over.
This is good news, as I often find real encouragement and strength from the abundance of music both ancient and new that reminds me of God’s love, His constant protection, and His unfailing mercy. I have had many days when my prayers just can’t seem to lift my spirit, but singing along to Matt Maher’s “Lord, I Need You” does. And Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” encourages me to seek out and remember just a few of the 10,000 reasons I have for praising God.
After all, we all know the reality of songs that get stuck in our heads. And while none of us may want “Mama Mia” stuck on repeat in our brains, allowing our poor rendition of "Tantum Ergo" a chance to take its place reminds us that God is charge of our lives and not that supergroup Abba. This ability of songs to get stuck on perpetual loop also helps keep dark thoughts, worries, and anxieties at bay. Everyone battles whispers seeking to steal our joy and confidence in God, and a calm singing and praying something like “Sing of Mary” can bring us back to a place of peace.
Perhaps you want to create your own song list for your faith. Recall Psalm 40 which tells us God
Draws us out of the pit of destruction, out of the muddy clay,
Sets my feet upon rock,
steadies my steps,
And puts a new song in my mouth.
Or, take a cue from my kids and make up your own. Either way, Psalm 96 tells us to "Sing a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth" and no mention is ever made of how good you need to sound.
Copyright 2021 Rachel Watkins
Images: Canva Pro; Pixabay (2016)
About the Author
Wife of Matt for 36 years and mom to 11, Rachel is the creator/developer of The Little Flowers Girls' Club. She is a weekly contributor to Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak's radio program, More2Life on EWTN radio. She has also been a homeschooler for over 25 years and has dealt with multiple sclerosis as a chronic illness for a bit longer.