Good thoughts from Linguamish blog
The primary consideration when leading others in worship is that we are creatures of habit. Singing doesn’t come easily for many people and mastering new melodies and lyrics is a complex task. This is very hard for me personally to keep in mind because I am a person that hates doing the same thing twice. For that reason I have a hard time singing a song over and over again. As much as I like songs like Ancient of Days or Lord, I lift your name on high, I can hardly bring myself to sing them since they have been repeated so many thousands of times before. But I’m the weird one. Most people love the same songs over and over again. It is comforting to sing a pleasing melody with words you know. That’s why I’m convinced that most people are imprinted by the songs that they heard when they originally were exposed to Christianity and nothing else ever quite matches up.
What is ironic and a bit sad is that as Christians the primary consideration I mentioned above is centered on us and not God. And furthermore it is limited to singing. To worship is to focus on God and so we should not be focusing on what makes us comfortable but in what exalts God.
The New Testament Scriptures are primarily concerned with prayer and not worship. Prayer is mentioned twice as often as worship in the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole.
According to the model given us by Jesus, prayer first acknowledges the proximity of God, that’s why he is called our Father. Second, God is identified as being in heaven. Third, we exalt him, hallowed be Thy name. Those three elements are essential to me in helping orient our worship of God. In essence we are acknowledging his proximity and also his distance. Then, crucially, we don’t try to bring him down to our level, but rather we proclaim him as exalted.
Almost every error in our relation to God can be found within those three elements:
Our Father: We can fail to recognize that God is personally involved in our lives. This is often called deism.
Who art in heaven: Or we can fail to recognize the one true God who rules the universe. This is a form of idolatry, creating a god in the image of our choice and then worshipping that image.
Hallowed be Thy name: Finally, we can focus on ourselves rather than on proclaiming his glory.
Let me close with the Evening Collect for Wednesday taken from Celebrating Common Prayer. The prayers in the Book of Common Prayer often typify the three characteristics I’ve been talking about:
Evening Collect for Wednesday
Almighty God in Christ you make all things new.
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
A prayer like that makes me want to sing! But more importantly it serves as an inspiration for my own praises.
I’m beginning to see that my challenge as a songwriter is not primarily about inventing melodies and lyrics but in exalting God through prayer. Flowing out of a deep relationship with our Father in heaven, lyrics will be directed toward him rather than trying to “lead” others in worship.