We turn now to the subject of singing and prayer. For just as praising God is bigger than singing, so singing is also more than praising God. How so?
Singing is a form of prayer!
Perhaps it may not have occurred to us before, but singing is (or at least can be) a form of prayer. Or, to put it round the other way, prayers can be sung. This is not just an obvious truism (inasmuch as anything that can be said can also be sung), but an observation from Scripture. The book of Psalms, once again, is our prime example here. For a large proportion of the Psalms are, in fact, prayers (e.g. Pss 3-8, 9-10, 12-13, 16‑18, etc.). And if there’s one thing we know about the way the Psalms functioned in the life of the people of Israel, it is that they were sung. Moreover, as we’ve already noted, they were also sung by the New Testament churches (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Jas 5:13).
The way in which music and song minister to the affective dimension of our humanity is something that Martin Luther understood only too well. That’s why he once made this strong claim:
Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions… which control men or more often overwhelm them… Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to subdue frivolity, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate or to appease those full of hate… what more effective means than music could you find.3Singing the Psalms, then, is an immensely powerful thing to do. Not only are we praying as we sing, we are praying divinely inspired words! More than that, the singing of these words helps us to engage and express not simply the conceptual dimensions of the truths we are articulating, but their emotional dimensions as well.