Music and Prayer

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I heard on the radio that some researchers had found that during the last 12 weeks of COVID-19 restrictions that the average number of beats per minute in the most recently released and purchased ‘pop’ music, had increased from 114 to 122 beats per minute!
Wow, of what relevance is that was my first cynical thought! Why couldn’t they research something useful? But then the presenter went on to explain the significance of the change. Apparently, if the music is more upbeat, played a bit faster, it helps to raise the ‘feel good’ factor in people. The suggestion was that the music was an important tool in keeping up the spirits of certain sections of the nation.

This lead me to think a bit more about how much of a part that music plays in all of our lives. I’m sure each of us has their own particular favourites when it comes to choices of which music we would choose to either listen or sing along to, and there is a tremendous range to pick from. As well as being entertaining, music also plays an important part in other areas of our life. We only have to think of theme tunes and advertising to realise how far the influence extends. And most quizzes have either a whole round, or at least a few questions with a musical connection.

Music also features at significant events in life, and weddings or funerals immediately spring to mind. How many people know what was Number 1, on the day they were born?(Me = House of the Rising Sun by The Animals!) Church life is also linked with a lot of music, and whilst much of the traditional music might be described as ‘old’, it is both familiar and on many occasions a source of comfort. Not all Church music is ‘old’ and there is plenty of newer music, enjoyed by all generations.

The other thing about church music, is that it allows words of prayer to be expressed in a different way. Very much as we each will have a favourite type of music, I’m sure that everybody could name a favourite hymn?

As a part of our usual Confirmation programme we have a session where we look at, and experience, different types of prayer. At one point of this session, the young people are asked to pick their own favourite hymn and share why it is important to them. All manner of reasons are given; first one learnt at school, reminder of First Communion, my Grandma used to sing it to me, etc, etc..

Some are surprised when I reveal that my personal favourite, the verse that says a lot to me, is from a Christmas carol. Verse 3 of this popular carol goes:

How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still,
the dear Christ enters in.

Do you recognise it?

For me, the words and music help me in my prayer of wanting to be able to have God as part of my life. The fact that the Word and life of God comes to us in all sorts of ways is comforting.

The use of music to aid prayer is of course nothing new, and indeed many of the psalms were written to be sung or chanted. Music can be very powerful also in changing the mood to allow us to focus more purposefully on the moment of prayer. I once heard it described as the tool that allows someone to be lost in a special time with God.

But does it matter which music we might choose to accompany us in our time of prayer? Well, as our time with God is both individual and personal, it follows that our choice of music is also individual and personal. A hymn from the 15th century speaks to one person, whereas a newly released rock song resonates more powerfully with the next person. Whatever it might be, if it enables me to concentrate better on my time of prayer, then it is suitable.

Perhaps now could be a good opportunity to consider if music, or different music, could be an aid to my prayer? Go on, give it a go!


Deacon Ian Black

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