A couple of months ago during one of my prayer times, I heard this simple phrase: “Sing what you want to see.”
I went to my piano and began to pray and ponder about what I had heard.
What is it I want to see and why do I need to sing it? I was already praying about things I wanted to happen, so why was God telling me to sing it?
We see in scripture that God is passionate about singing.
God’s heart for setting words to melodies is evident from just a quick look at the Psalms.
Psalm 96:1-2 – Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Psalm 47:6 – Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
In just four verses we are commanded to sing seven times. All told, the Bible contains over four hundred references to singing and fifty direct commands to sing.
Psalm 42:8 – “At night his song is with me”
The psalmist breaks the silence of the night with a song. When faced with darkness and doubt, why did the psalmist sing? And why should we?
Psalms 42–43 give us at least four reasons.
1. Songs turn misery into prayer
Our darkest nights can make prayer feel like a foreign language. We can try to pray, but we’re unable to say a word. We can start, stop, sigh, and give up. Or if we do pray, we can ramble from one unformed thought to another.
In his own trouble, the psalmist put his prayers on the wings of a melody:
Psalm 42:9; Psalm 43:1, 3
Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? . . . Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause. . . . Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
David knew that a song could take his groans and send them to God. He knew that a song could gather up the chaos within and give it an intelligible voice. And so, he placed his pain in the structure of a lament.
When you are so troubled that you cannot speak to God, you may still be able to sing. You may still be able to sing out a song that will turn your misery into prayer.
2. Songs confront the logic of despair
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, preaching on Psalm 42, famously said, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”
David sang to himself. When we read, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him” (Psalm 42:5), he is singing.
He turns to his depressed self, takes him by the shoulders, and serenades him with hope.
Often, sung words fit where said words cannot. Once sung, the words often stay with us, echoing through our minds and hearts, bringing beauty and truth to the logic of our despair. God gave us a book of songs for a reason. Often, we need to do more than speak the truth to ourselves. We need to sing it.
3. Songs glorify the God who hears
When we lift up a song at midnight, we declare with the psalmist that God is “the God of my life, . . . my rock” (Psalm 42:8–9).
When we sing into the darkness, we confess that God alone can raise our cast-down souls (Psalm 42:5),
that God alone can lead us back home (Psalm 43:3),
and that God alone can retune our songs of misery into songs of praise (Psalm 43:4).
When we raise our song in the night, we declare, against all our feelings, that God reigns over this darkness,
that God is at work in this darkness, and that God is still worthy of worship in this darkness.
And when we do, we glorify the God who hears.
4. As you Sing the way is prepared for joy
Songs are not magic. They do not remedy our distress right as we sing them. But songs are one way we prepare for joy’s return.
Psalms 42–43 end with David still in darkness.
But joy’s delay does not close David’s mouth.
He sits there at the bottom of his pit, and he keeps on singing.He keeps on praying to God and preaching to himself through song.
And he keeps on trusting that, as he does so, God will slowly lift him from the pit, and joy will return:
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
When the time is right, God will answer. Our songs will be one way that He lifts up the valleys, makes low the hills, and prepares the way for joy’s return.
When we worship, He meets with us, and we experience His goodness. But our feelings should not be our pursuit. We should seek first to call God what He is: holy and worthy. And set our gaze upon Him.
By definition, worship is ascribing worth to something or someone. But true worship is also a matter of the heart.
It must be felt. It can’t be ritualistic. It can’t be just an external going through the motions. True worship is a heartfelt expression of love, adoration, admiration, fascination, wonder, and celebration.
It’s something that happens in your heart and soul when you begin to praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He has done.
When we praise, He steps in and says:
Isaiah 55:8-11 (NLT)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
As we raise our song, He surrounds us with life giving promises!
For more teaching from Rachel Shafer’s visit her website and book “Expect God.”