Musical preference is subjective, and that truth is seen in religious as well as secular settings. In a majority of churches you’ll find 2 basic styles of music: hymns, and praise and worship songs. Whichever style of music you find yourself supporting, or even if you’re appreciative of both, I think it’s fair to say that we could all benefit from a ‘spring cleaning’ of sorts, in regards to the way we approach our time of musical worship.
If you sing something enough times, you’ll memorize it. While memorization is an awesome skill, I have caught myself on many occasions robotically singing both categories of songs during a church service without engaging my mind and my spirit in the words that I’m singing, and in the message that’s being conveyed. One could point the finger at ADHD, and I won’t deny that my brain is a bit ‘lacking in focus’ at times, but each Christian has a responsibility when we walk in the door of the church to make an effort to focus on worship. If we don’t, then we have to ask ourselves why we’re even there. The deeper, more invisible culprit to my nomadic mind is our enemy the devil. He WANTS you and I to be distracted during church. What a way to thumb his nose at God, eh? Almost anything can be a distraction during church, from planning the day ahead, to the personal devices that you bring to church, to children (yours or others).
One way that we can attempt to overcome this distraction is to make more of a connection with the songs that we sing. Hymns are typically more beloved by the older generation because they grew up singing them. A hymn is definitely not the musical style of today, but many of them have awesome words and melodies. Consider the song “Only In Thee.” It has a nice tune and harmony, but a few of the words and some of the poetic imagery are pretty unfamiliar for today: words like thee, thy, dwelleth, betide, cometh, and ‘pilgrim bark aright’. Don’t be tempted to bypass the absorption of these songs into your mind! Upon closer inspection (and perhaps with the help of a dictionary), we can see the powerful message of this song. You can endure the troubles and temptations of this life by the peace and protection of Jesus. Many of us could attest to the fact that sometimes life in this world is dark (‘Only in thee when days are drear, when neither sun nor stars appear…’). Jesus is portrayed as shining ‘like a beacon in the night’, and the last verse is a beautiful statement of his love for us: ‘Only in thee dear savior slain, losing thy life, my own to gain’. A modern way to paraphrase this is: Only you, Jesus, would lose your life, to save mine. What an awesome thought to hold onto, if you will delve into the words and their meaning!
A praise and worship song I love is “Sanctuary.” A short chorus with only one main thought, but what a vital piece of our Christian walk and worship: ‘Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary: pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you’. Exodus says (God’s words) “Then have them make a sanctuary for me and I will dwell among them.” What an awesome thought, that God wants to spend time with us.
I invite you to take the opportunity to explore songs you’re unfamiliar with, and also to be focused and aware in your worship.
Rebecca Parr is married to Kevin and they have 3 children.