The singing prayer

Hymns do more than momentarily lift our spirits. Evil can't resist the healing power of the heartfelt hymn's "joyful noise unto the Lord."

Whether our hymn singing is a cappella in the shower, a broken voice against a dark night's struggle, or the resonance of a full congregation's confident chorus, it can express our willingness to celebrate Spirit. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands," sang the Psalmist. "Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing." Ps. 100:1, 2.

There are lots of openings for psalmists! One is filled every time an earnest heart sings out in supplication to God's mercy or in affirmation of His presence. The individual voice may be inaudible, but the courage to sing back at evil carries the authority of divine Spirit. Why, there is something outright disarming about singing in the face of threat. If evil, or resistance to good, had a voice, we could almost hear it saying: "No, no, anything but a song!"

When Paul and Silas were imprisoned after healing a young woman of "a spirit of divination" (her masters had been profiting from her fortunetelling), they rose to the occasion with the spiritual audacity of singing prayer. See Acts 16:16–40 . Acts records: "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed."

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Hymn 291*
December 22, 1986

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