Singing as Prayer


Dr. John Hoole – March 5, 2017




In past lessons, I have mentioned various forms our prayers may take.  I have alluded to 6 forms thus far:


                   •  Confession

                   •  Petition

                   •  Intercession

                   •  Thanksgiving

                   •  Adoration and Praise

                   •  Conversation


There is another kind of prayer that we haven’t identified as yet.  I call it singing.  But singing that is prayer often incorporates the forms of prayer already mentioned.  Not all church singing is prayer, but much of it is.


For instance, “All Hail King Jesus.”

  All Hail King Jesus, all hail Immanuel,

  King of kings, Lord of Lords, bright morning star;


Or, how about “How Great Thou Art.”

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,

How great Thou art, how great Thou art.


Some songs are “testimonial.”  These are songs that tell of one person’s experience to all who will listen.  Take He Touched Me,” for instance:


                   “Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame,

                     Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same.”


Other songs are “instructional.”  Take Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.


                   Stand up, Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross,

                   Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.


These non-prayer songs are also in keeping with the Word of God.  This is especially so of the “instructional” songs.


         Colossians 3:16 NKJV


16     Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


In this verse, it seems that singing in the church has at least two roles.


1.      Singing can be used to teach and instruct one another.  Here the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs are used to teach and admonish.


2.      But, singing is also directed to God, springing from grace in our hearts.


If we bring other passages about singing, we will see that all singing is to be directed to God.  But when it is, it will often be encouragement to each other.  The very next verse – verse 17 – instructs us to do all in the name of Jesus.


Even though “testimonial” and “instructional” songs are not prayer per se, they do assist us in coming before the throne of God.  They instruct and encourage us to put our faith in our Lord.



See also Mark 14:26


Matthew 26:30  (NKJV) tells us how Jesus and his disciples ended the Last Supper.


30     And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.


So, we know that Jesus sang, and there is no indication that this wasn’t a regular occurrence.




Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV


17     The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."


In the early historical records in the Bible, we find music is prominent enough to be mentioned.


         In Genesis 4, we are told Verse 21  (NKJV) …Jubal…..was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.


I believe singing and music are very important parts of a Christian’s life.  Ralph Martin, in his book called Worship in the Early Church, said, The Christian Church was born in song.”  We Christians are a singing people.  There is a reason for this.  Some things are too great for mere speaking – they should be sung.  The reality of God and Christ and creation and salvation and heaven and hell have a kind of depth and intensity of emotion that is felt more in singing.  Some things demand that the poetry be stretched into song.


Psalm 100:4  (NKJV)


4       Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful to him, and bless his name.


This verse says we should begin our approach into the presence of God with thanksgiving.  What I get from this verse is that we do not have to create a new route into the presence of God’s throne.  That avenue has already been constructed – and its name is Thanksgiving.


Another thing I learn from this verse is that it seems to indicate Praise to be on a higher plane.  The Psalmist puts his illustration in terms of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple.  The worshipper first must enter the outer gate.  You enter into His gates with thanksgiving.  But the court, where the worship and praise took place, would suggest increased closeness to the presence of God – a greater intimacy.  Praise is to be used to come into the very presence of God.


But, just two verses earlier, we are told something else should accompany the person who is coming into God’s presence.


Psalms 100:2 NKJV


2       Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.


                     The NIV renders it as coming before God’s presence “with songs of joy.”


One form of praise and adoration is singing unto our God.


Psalms 69:30-31 NKJV


30     I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

31     This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves.


As important as sacrifices were in the Old Testament, there were some things that God valued more.  1 Samuel 15:22 says that “to obey is better than sacrifice.”    In the two verses we just read in Psalm 69, we are told that praising God with song and thanksgiving is better than an ox or bull.


When Solomon completed the Temple in Jerusalem, they had a dedication ceremony.  We find this event recorded in 2 Chronicles 5.


2 Chronicles 5:12-13 NIV


12     All the Levites who were musicians-Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives-stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets.

13     The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: "He is good; his love endures forever." Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud,


As I said a moment ago, one of the most common forms of praise that we know is singing, but it can become so routine that we forget what the Bible says about singing to the Lord.  Songs and poetry are easy to memorize, making it possible to sing without giving a whole lot of attention with our minds.  We need to pay attention to what we are singing making sure we mean what we say in song to God.


Music should turn people’s minds toward God.  This is its purpose in the Church.  We sometimes call the music singing part of a service as “worship.”  It is not, however, the only portion of a church service in which to worship.  It is not to entertain, but through the emotions that music can affect, it intensifies our yearning to worship the Creator and to enjoy His presence.


All the references to music in the Scriptures are in the context of joy and happiness.  Scriptures suggests music ceases when joy ceases.  Psalm 137 speaks of a time when Israel was under Babylon, with many Jews transported to that country.  Verse 2 says they could not sing, and they hung their harps on the willow trees.             


Ezra 2 tells us about those who were allowed to return to their homeland by the Persians, after their families were uprooted and taken to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.  In Ezra 2, we are told that 42,360 Jews were among the return home.  And in Ezra 2:41 we are told that 128 of them were singers.


Singing is an expression of a revived heart.  In fact, if you go back through the study of Church history, as I have, you will find that when there was a great awakening, or revival, it was always accompanied by many new songs being written.


During the reformation, many new church songs were written.  One of the most far-reaching reforms was the reintroduction of congregational singing in the language of the people.  Many were won to the Lord through this medium alone.  Martin Luther, himself, was the composer of more than 20 songs.  Two that come to mind is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and “Away in a Manger.”


John Wesley, who was at the center of the First Great Awakening, had a brother, Charles, who wrote many songs.  Among those that we may know are, "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing", "Christ the Lord is Risen Today", and "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing."


In the song book of the Bible, the Psalms, there are 68 references to singing to the Lord.  And, in looking at the Psalms this past week, most of the times when praise is talked about, you will find singing mentioned also.


Singing in church is not just for singers.  The truth is, singing is for believers.  The relevant question is not do you have a voice, but do you have a song?


For some of the rest of our time this morning, we are going to sing.  Some of them will be song or choruses that are prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God.


SING:     “Arise and Sing” (A/Ab)

                “Blessed Be The Name of the Lord” (Eb)

 Jesus has made His promises very clear to us.


2 Corinthians 1:20  (NKJ)


20     For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

One of those promises is found in Jeremiah 29:12Pray to me, and I will listen.  One of God’s promises is that He will listen when we pray.


I am convinced that one of the great concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.   He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion.   He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray. (Samuel Chadwick)


Andrew Murray: “God’s child can conquer anything by prayer. Is it any wonder that Satan does his utmost to snatch that weapon from the Christian or to hinder him in the use of it?”


A Long Apprenticeship


A soldier was brought before his commanding officer and accused of communicating with the enemy. He had been seen emerging from an area where their troops were known to patrol. The poor man summed up his defense in a few words, stating that he had slipped away to spend an hour alone in prayer. “Have you been in the habit of spending an hour in private prayer?” demanded the officer. “Yes, Sir,” he replied. “Then” said his commander, “never in your life have you been in more need of prayer than now. Kneel down and pray aloud so we all may hear you.”

Expecting instant death, the soldier dropped to his knees and poured out his heart to God. His prayer immediately revealed an intimacy with the Heavenly Father. His earnest fluency, his humble appeal for divine intervention, and his obvious trust in one who was strong to deliver told unmistakably that he came regularly to the throne of grace.

“You may go,” said the officer. “No one could have prayed that way without a long apprenticeship; the fellows who have never attended drill are always ill at ease for the review.

Daily Walk, February 11.


Sing:                    “I Stand in Awe”  “G”


These songs speak of putting our lives in His hands.


         Matthew 11:28  (KJV)


8       Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.


What do you and I put our confidence in?  Is it our job?  Is it our position?  Is it our money or possessions?


What do We Rely On?

 I am not disposed to undervalue any of these things in their proper place, but …



Throughout the New Testament our Commander-in-Chief reminds us that we are in a conflict a daily battle – not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers in the heavenlies.  Therefore, it is essential that we understand every avenue that we can use to rout our enemies.  When we battle with the enemy, who is a master of warfare, we must remember that only God can fight our battles and win.


So, what does all this have to do with singing.  There is some evidence from the Scripture that Satan, before he became Satan, was one of the worship leaders in heaven.  Maybe that’s why he hates to hear the people of God singing praise to our God, because he knows that our singing can be used as a weapon against him.


Sing:            Shout to the Lord (C)


A remarkable example of how singing works against the enemy is found in 2 Chronicles 20.  Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, and one day he discovered his little kingdom was surrounded by powerful enemies.  He knew he and his people stood little chance, so they took the matter to God.


2 Chronicles 20:12 NASB


12     O… God,…… we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee."


God respond, in verse 15:


     “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's.”


And then in verse 17 (NKJV), God says,


You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you."


So what did Jehoshaphat do?  He appointed singers to march in front of his army.  God said the battle was His, so what better way to meet the enemy than with songs of victory from the front ranks.


From this story we can draw out the following conclusions:


         1.      Spiritual warfare can be carried out through singing.


         2.      Our enemies are thrown into confusion by godly songs of thanksgiving and victory.


Or, to put it another way, God has given approval for the use of spiritual songs as an effective weapon against Satan and his cohorts.


Is there anything similar to this in the New Testament?  Yes, I believe we find something similar in Acts 16:22-26This is the record of how Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten with rods and put in stocks in the inner chamber of the prison.  What would you do?  Scream for help?  Yell?  Would you make a deal with God to get you out?  Verse 25 says:  “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and signing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.”


Why were they singing hymns to God?  Could it be that they knew the story in 2 Chronicles 20, and they needed a display of our Commander-in-Chief’s awesome powers?  And in His mercy, God did exactly that, for in verse 26 we read: Suddenly there was a great earthquake, ….and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.


Psalms 59:16 NKJV


16     But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense And refuge in the day of my trouble.


Our weapons are not natural weapons.  They are not something the world would understand.  But in our Commander-in-Chief’s kingdom, they are.  That means we need to, we must, learn to fight GOD’s way, not the world’s way.


Sing:            “He’s More Than Enough”

“Eb”            “Bless The Lord (Crouch)”


When you and I pray, we need to remember…


1. The love of God that wants the best for us.


2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.


3. The power of God that can accomplish it.


William Barclay, quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, p. 100


It has been said that there is something wrong with people who talk to themselves.  But in reality, that is what we are doing when we sing the songs of Zion.


Ephesians 5:18-20 KJV


18     And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

19     Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

20     Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;


When you sing, Paul say, you are not only speaking to God, but to yourself.


         When Satan tries to get you off the rock of Jesus……sing “I shall not be moved.”


         When the storms of life begin to rock your boat……sing “I’m anchored to the Rock of Jesus.”


         When you don’t know which way to turn,……sing, I know the Lord will make a way for me.”


         When you are tired,……sing, “They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength.”


When it seems that everything is against you, sing, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord.”


There is just something about praising Him for evrything that brings about a peace in your life.  There’s something about remembering God’s goodness to you that makes the present problems fade away.  There’s something about remembering what God has done in the past in your life that gives you that assurance that He can and will do it again.


Because of this, we should never give up.  Our Lord will come through for us.  He wants to act on your behalf.  You are the apple of His eye.  He’s more willing to give that we are even to receive.


Many of the songs and choruses we sing express adoration and praise to God.  Some of these speak of the names of our Lord and God.


Psalms 69:30 NKJV


30     I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.