Let Music do the Praying For You

I used to sing in the car to myself, to my babies, to the sky. In our “before Ireland” days, I’d wake up with the sun to drive my husband to work. Then I’d sit in the parking lot on sweaty afternoons waiting for him to clock out with a hungry, fussy baby passing minutes in the backseat. Every day, that chubby boy and I would count those minutes—hours, really—in song.

The before-Ireland days were long ones, lending time to many, many songs. In those days, Sara Groves did my praying for me, Waterdeep my liturgy. My corporate worship consisted of my tears, a baby’s coos, and my Midwestern musical allies singing me towards patience, towards hope, towards obedience.

I was weary in those days.

Oh Lord, my heart / is not lifted up

Repatriation is not for the faint of heart. Our first term overseas left us hollow and sore, and we desperately longed to return on a swifter timetable than the one God would allow. His lovingly-laid out detour dropped us into a ragtag group of young people, a baby church communing amidst painted canvases and crumbling walls.

This type of worship (a small, acoustic family circle, really) was all new, and I breathed it in as if I was becoming new again, too. I joined their chorus as only a woman recently humbled can: swaying in the back with a baby on her hip, an alto’s cries gulped between chords.

Five years later, I realize that family circle lasted but a few short months in what would become an awfully extended exile, but all I remember – all that matters – is the atmosphere of peace, of joy, of discovering my own heart language hidden within a fellowship of stomping feet and raised hands.

God was singing back to me, too.

We praise your Son, Jesus / who makes all things new

Returning to the shores of our beautiful country of service, I feel no need to keep track of the tunes, the time, the beat. Ireland is home to some of the most famous musicians and musical acts of all time, so my harmonic antics really aren’t necessary. We’ve got Enya, for crying out loud.

And the church, oh she is filled with beautiful sounds: tin whistles and fiddles, lilting voices and shouts of joy. We are not in want of worship here; it’s buried in the land, hidden in the bogs. Ireland cries out with music. And yet, my own songs subside, the car now reserved for refereeing fights… and picking a few of my own.

Take this city / if it be your will

I’m tempted to betray the melodies of my homeland, the hymns of my youth. For I am a lucky one: worshipping in my mother tongue, knowing the words (if not the melodies) by heart. I know it’s a rare thing for those in our business. I see it in my friends who gather with us once a year for fellowship, blessing and restoration. They lift their arms to the sky, singing in English for the first time in months.

As we gather together, I hear in their voices a year’s worth of prayers held together with tape and glue, tattered through treacherous dangers, embedded – as we are often reminded – in spiritual battle. We let our worship do the praying for us. The words we’ve been missing for so long don’t dare hide the promises of Scripture, or the God who sees and loves sparrows and wildflowers as much as the hairs on our head.

A great High Priest / whose name is love

Truth be told, I am weary; the days of singing in the car ceased. Nothing is terribly wrong, but I don’t feel terribly right, either. Perhaps it is the long obedience in the same direction, the yearning for home, the way I am prone to wander. I feel myself ascending with the Psalmist, but we’ve yet to reach the summit. My feet are tricky on this ground.

So in these days, like the days and months and years that came before, let us sing. When our prayers cannot be expressed in mere words, let the music do the praying for us, let the Spirit intercede in Song.

The melodies may be foreign, but we know the truth by heart.

This is my anthem, this is my song / The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again / His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide / He’s always been faithful to me

 

Has there been a time in your life where you let music do the praying for you? What songs have been a refuge for your weary heart?

 

PS: The song lyrics listed above are, in order: Psalm 131, Waterdeep / Whole Again, The Flint Hill Fellowship / Yahweh, U2 / Before the Throne of God Above / He’s Always Been Faithful, Sara Groves. Also, here’s some music that keeps me praying, no matter the season.

13 Comments

  1. Devi June 19, 2016

    YES! I have found music to be a powerful tool in prayer and resting as well. Sara Groves is probably my all time favourite. Her music has been a guide in different seasons of my life. Floodplain is on repeat right now :).

    1. Karen Huber June 21, 2016

      HI Devi! Sara is so good about leading us to that resting place in the Spirit, is she not?! I’ve not yet bought Floodplain, but I think I need to… STAT!

  2. Laura June 19, 2016

    I love that song by Sara Groves! 🙂 Great post, Karen.

  3. Elizabeth June 20, 2016

    Yes! So many times I let music be my intercession for others. I am great at personal worship — I love it — but I am admittedly bad at intercession. So if I’m not in a bad place myself, and the song is for people who are, I pray the song over my friends who need it.

    Also I love the way you describe worship being buried in the land and hidden in the bogs of Ireland. You are a poet 🙂

    1. Karen Huber June 21, 2016

      What a fabulous idea, praying for others through music. Love.

  4. Beth Everett June 20, 2016

    “When our prayers cannot be expressed in mere words, let the music do the praying for us, let the Spirit intercede in Song.” – Oh yes!  As I prepared for repatriation I had a song list I played on repeat every day for months before we left. And still play on this side of the transition.

    And that song by Sara Groves was on the list! One of my favorites too.

    1. Karen Huber June 21, 2016

      Love the idea of having a leaving/transition playlist (maybe much like that playlist you prep for childbirth or weddings). Thanks for sharing!

  5. Shepswife July 26, 2016

    When I went through depression on the field, I stumbled across an album that I’d borrowed from my sister a year or so before but never listened to. I found in Bethany Dillon’s CD “Stop and Listen” everything my heart needed to say. One line became my promise, “Through the mud on my eyes I can see…My Hope has come.” ~Get Up and Walk. I grabbed that song with both hands, and sang it every day. And then one morning, I woke up happy. The depression that had been there the day before was miraculously gone. That was three years ago, but once in a while when I need to be reminded of how faithful Father has been to me, I pull it out again. Like this past week, as we watch our adopted country suffer from political unrest like it hasn’t seen in decades. I pray and praise to the lyrics of a fellow traveler. This time it was the title song, “Stop and Listen.”
    /I’d be a fool to forfeit/the chance to take a moment// for You to rise like the dawn/ over my cold, tired heart/ and what I thought I’d lost/ finds me when I stop/ Stop and Listen//

  6. Sharon January 18, 2017

    Songs over the years have more and more become my prayers and like someone mentioned above I will often use song to pray over others as well. The thing that has surprised me is that the songs in my head have now started making their way onto paper and rough recordings onto my phone. I wouldn’t consider myself a poet but these words just flood out in song. We are about to travel “home” for our longest home assignment in a decade and I’m so hopeful that God will help put those songs to use in the lives of others.

  7. Denise Tolbert January 19, 2017

    Karen, you put Sarah Groves, Water deep, U2, and Ireland in beautiful chorus. Lord bless you! In the midst of a season where little music lovers tend to do the DJ-ing, I am reminded now of music MY soul craves. Thank you.

  8. Elaine January 19, 2017

    I loved this line “When our prayers cannot be expressed in mere words, let the music do the praying for us, let the Spirit intercede in Song.”

    When I go back through my journals I find spread throughout them lyrics of songs, sometimes a line and sometimes the whole song, and I remember how those lines captured the thoughts and feelings I didn’t how to express myself. As I learned that feelings could be felt and not ignored, the heart cries of the song writers gave me a voice to what I did not know how to say.

    And now some of those songs have become stones of remembrance. I hear them and remember the places I have been and God’s faithfulness and goodness then. I was at a conference last week and we sang a song I haven’t heard recently, and it took me back almost 8 years now to when the repeating of the song for a week slowly drilled into my heart to ask if it was true. That was a song of wrestling with God, fighting with God, and eventually surrendering to a hard obedience.

  9. Ruth March 12, 2017

    Ahhhhhh… This post so accurately reflects how Audrey Assad’s Inheritance album has prayed me through a continuing transition phase in Indonesia. Particularly her version of “It is well with my soul”. Both a prayer for me and for my friends here.

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