Music & Prayer

Prayer is something that is sacred, never to be taken for granted. It is the way we communicate with the infinite God and a way we can impact the entire planet from our closet/meeting place. One issue that may negatively impact the direction of a prayer meeting (alone or 2+) is the use of (recorded) music.

I’ve found that music can often be like crutches for a drowning man. 

When we pray, we have the opportunity for GOD to lead us and direct us to affect the supernatural realm in a way that directly affects the world around us. Sometimes He wants us to meditate. Sometimes He wants us to war in the SPIRIT against demonic influence over our communities, or maybe He just wants our adoration and affection. The point is, prayer meetings are a vehicle for God to do what HE wants through HIS people.

Sometimes when we pray, there is an apparent need to have music in the background to accompany us. I hope whoever reads this doesn’t stop here. But using music in this manner, can very easily hinder the effectiveness of your prayer. Some qualifiers that I will elaborate on later:
1. God will surely lead a person to sing or to play, laying a song on their heart in order to direct the focus of a prayer meeting.
2. I believe GOD will honor all ambition to seek His face.
That being said, there’s often a better way. At times, we play music to create an atmosphere of prayer – did you already see the possible issue? “Create an atmosphere of prayer…” is indicative of trying to manufacture something by way of our own ability. Kind of like when the Philistines found a more convenient way to carry the ark of the covenant around (on wheels). Yeah, it’s working. But is it accurate? Is it authentic? The only thing we need to “get” into the presence of the LORD is thanksgiving and praise. From experience, I can say that simply thanking Him for any and all things you can think of, will surely connect your mind and your heart to His mind and heart; but that’s another story altogether.

I love gospel music. I love that someone out there was so focused on the Word of God and in prayer that they were impressed to write a song to commemorate what they were experiencing in that moment. But that’s just the thing. The song is commemorating a very specific experience and is coming from a very specific place of prayer/thought. The musical component of each song is going to accompany that place of prayer/thought in a way that invokes our emotions toward the Lord. It’s something we can’t escape. It’s how music works. Certain modes, tempos, and dialogues affect what kind of emotions will be invoked when we listen. On an objective level, I can’t see anything wrong with that, honestly. I love that my heart can connect with God by the provoking of a tune. However, this becomes an issue when we are ready to go DEEP into the Spirit and God is prepared to do something specific through us. 

These specific avenues of prayer require a certain level of emotion with them. He made us to have emotions and they are a way we can relate with what HE is doing as WE pray. If He is trying to move in a certain direction of prayer but our music is aggressively pulling our emotions in a different direction, we aren’t exactly in sin but we are missing out on effective prayers. I’ll stick to this single example to avoid planting paranoia in your mind:

Let’s say a group has been praying for a while and everyone has repented and are praying in the Spirit and God decides He wants to do some aggressive warfare against the prince of a certain place. That type of prayer is usually exerted through an aggression in our emotions. A certain intensity in our person. If there’s a slow song about the love and grace of God playing even moderately loud in the background, we risk the chance of distracting people and their emotions as they gravitate toward thanking the Lord for His mercy.

Anything wrong with thanking the Lord for His mercy? No way. But they may have missed out on something mighty in the Spirit. Something effective. A man in the Bible prayed a prayer that stopped the sun from moving (Joshua 10). Men and women in the bible have prayed prayers that literally brought walls down to rubble. Did they try to create any kind of atmosphere to do this? Not so. They knew what God wanted to do and acted accordingly. Very simple. These are the experiences we could be missing out on when we rely on music to guide our prayer as opposed to the guidance of the Lord.

Qualifier: Maintaining the visual, crutches are not a bad thing. We don’t scold folks who break their foot and then use crutches. We scold that kid in grade school who broke their foot but uses crutches even after it completely healed, because they got comfortable with the convenience and attention. There was a moment in Scripture where GOD was giving David his huge debut/open door following his anointing. Once Saul was “bothered” by an evil spirit from the Lord, his servants called for David. When he played on his harp (lyre), the evil spirit departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16). I believe there’s a legitimate principle on the use of music here. The playing of the lyre was in response to a spiritual disturbance. There will be bad days. Sometimes those bad days involve wicked influences (anxiety, lust, anger, vengeance just to name a few). This is a great time to bump Jesus music! Those modes, tempos and dialogues will provoke you unto the love of GOD when your heart has been inclined toward your emotions of negativity. For me, that works every time. The Word of GOD tells us to make captive the thoughts to the obedience of Christ just after describing the need to casting down imaginations. So it’s clear that taking captive the thoughts to the obedience of Christ is the weapon in which we cast down imaginations (2 Cor 10). I’ve found that Jesus music will do just that. All you have to do is press play.

I hope this is insightful or helpful and is a blessing!

Christian Music or Worldly Music?

Music is a topic in which many people in the Christian community have varying views and philosophies. Usually, the questions sound like: what music is worldly? Is worldly music okay if it’s not blatantly bad and carries a wholesome message? How about instrumental music? All valid questions. God cares about these things.

We have to remember one thing about music, it is not solely an expression of art or creativity, but a medium. Any time matter is vibrating, sound is being produced. Waves are produced carrying energy that is separate from light, water, temperature, etc. A Greek philosopher, known as Pythagoras was able to discover a way to organize pitches in a way that can be categorized. He took strings of different materials and stretched them across his house and calculated the distances in which he plucked each one. Doing this, he discovered intervals and modes, the very basis (outside of rhythm) that all modern music theory is based on. After his discovery of the modes (spheres), other Greeks began to relate with the emotional atmospheres each mode produces. For instance, therapists would play on harps in the hypophrygian mode in order to help alcoholics overcome their addiction. This is the same concept behind music today. In film scores, certain modes and tonal centers contribute better to certain scenarios than others. A composer wouldn’t use the music from a horror film interchangeably with that of a romantic comedy. The modes provoke different emotions.

I know that was a lengthy, rough introduction to music history but it’s necessary to understand the rationale behind being selective about the music you listen to. David, as a young man was often called in to play his harp and an evil spirit literally fled and dispersed from Saul after having taken him over (1 Samuel 16:14-23). We have to remember that music is a medium. It is an actual manifestation of God’s Word just like any other matter. When David played, he was in tune with the Spirit of God and so the melodies and “riffs” he decided to play were kin to that connection. 

Worldly music. The name is the answer to the question, “is it okay?” Again, music is a medium and is built to invoke emotions in a very particular way. Another important thing to note is that Satan absolutely has his hand in it. I know that’s a concept that’s just kind of thrown around but even the short passage (Ezekiel 28:12-15) gives us an idea of what God had in mind for the cherub. An ultimate musical instrument was being constructed at the same time Satan was created. Satan’s music was meant to be a part of a heavenly covering among the angels. When Satan fell, he lost his authority but didn’t lose his function. Secular music has historically had some kind of function. The orchestras, field bands, string quartets all served a certain purpose. Maybe to welcome a foreign leader to an event, or other types of royal ceremony, or for study. On the other hand, attending the opera was a sure chance at vain content but attendees knew that going in (for the most part). What the secular music industry has done today is taken the agenda of several songwriters and producers (or whoever is endorsing them) and coupled corresponding lyrics (self-hate, objectification, sexual abuse, drug abuse, etc.) with music that invokes the opposite emotional response. For example, Bruno Mars has a tune called “Marry You”. If you were to read the lyrics you’ll see that it’s about a man and woman who get so inebriated that they decide to get married on a whim, realizing they will regret everything the next day and most likely split up. Spotify has this song as the #2 most played wedding song in 2018 (https://bit.ly/2QLbKsQ). I would assume that most people wouldn’t want to be blasting those lyrics into their consciousness on that magical day and yet there’s no question to include that song in the playlist. Even my first time hearing the song all the way through (at a wedding for an apostolic couple) I was completely ignorant to the message. Why? Modes. Grooves. Sound production. The song is filled with bright chord progressions, pop-grooves, and a heavy emphasis on a single line. “I think I wanna marry you”(which by itself is extremely harmful but can seem cute). On my first listen, my only thoughts were about how catchy, celebratory, and fun it sounded. Then there’s the claim, “well I just listen to the song because I like the beat/how it sounds, not the lyrics”. Not a thing, sorry. Even if you feel like you are not at all conscious of what the words are saying, you are absolutely ingesting that message. The lyrics are not its own entity within a song. It is 100% incorporated into the musical production. The words are directly linked to rhythmic and melodic phrases so that it lives homogeneously with “the beat”. When you sing the beat of the song, you will not avoid memorizing the lyrics.

I’ve heard a lot of controversy and “spilled tea” about how songwriters and artists approach Christian music. There is often the claim made that Christian artists are merging their musical styles with that of the secular industry. Therefore, listening to contemporary Christian music is like an equivalent to listening to secular music. I will say that there are a number of songs out there that have great lyrics but the instrumentals are clearly that of a secular idiom. What I mean is that the instrumentals are almost exclusively used with secular acts (clubs, parties, raves, etc.). I personally think that should be avoided. If you want to express that Jesus loves you, don’t use a track that is obviously reminiscent of a heavy metal band. There are particular lifestyle traits that are publicly known to be tied to heavy metal. That being said, the broad claim that all Christian music is heading toward the world is false. Musicians of all kinds have been following after each other since the antiquity. The studying of music, for a musician, isn’t always inherently about what kind of message it will send, but about simply studying. Musicians study all kinds of music for the sake of becoming a better musician. Even David was known for his impact on his environment because of how skillfully he played. Styles and approaches are inevitably going to sound similar. It’s been this way for a long time. Even the songs from the good-ole days, songs that send congregations flying from the chandelier were modeled after the shuffle, country, and blues bands. God has not been honoring the style, rather the devotion to play skillfully as well as dedicating the lyrics to glorifying Him. The only way you’d have the right to say that your church’s music is nothing like the world is if you were singing homiphonal chants in unison without clapping. 

So if you’re wanting to take inventory on what kind of music you’re listening to, I would personally consider these things: 
• Does Jesus get glory?
• Am I being productive with this music in the background?
• Do I feel empty after jamming out to this?
• Are there lyrics I “bleep” out when I sing along?
• Would I play it around someone I’m witnessing to?
God Bless!