If you ever pull up next to me at a traffic light and look into my car, you might see me singing worship songs along with the radio. If I were to roll my car windows down so you could hear me, you might wonder why someone would sing so loudly and passionately while driving. You might even laugh at me. Even though I probably look strange (and maybe I sound strange, too), I’m not bothered by that, because I feel connected to God when I turn up the radio to sing praises to him on the go.
God craves our praise wherever we go – not just in our church worship services – and music is the universal language of praise. The Bible
often describes people using music as a tool to praise God. Psalm 150 describes a wide variety of different musical forms of praise: “Praise the Lord. ... Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord…”
Music is a powerful form of expressing the creativity God has given us as people made in his image. It transcends language barriers and communicates deep feelings from our souls. When we use music to express our changing emotions to God as we go through each day, we connect with God’s unchanging truth that gives us an accurate perspective on what’s going on in our lives.
The EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum
in Seattle, Washington, which focuses on how people use music in their daily lives, emphasizes that music helps people connect their own experiences with something greater than themselves. The museum’s musical performance space, while secular, is called Sky Church because it’s a based on a phrase musician Jimi Hendrix used to describe “a place where people of all ages and cultures could come to collectively celebrate musical experiences.”
The Bible describes just such a place in heaven, which the Apostle John saw in a vision and described in Revelation 7:9-10: “I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. … And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Angels then join the myriad of people in heaven praising God with the music of voices crying out in unison. Our experiences praising God right now through music are like soundbites that inspire us to look forward to the ultimate praise experience: celebrating God together in heaven.
Here are 5 ways to use music as a tool for praising God on the go:
1. Thank God during the good times.
God is constantly pouring blessings into your life (from simple gifts like the ability to breathe fresh air or enjoy a delicious meal, to dramatic blessings like getting a new child or a new job), and when you’re experiencing good circumstances you’re especially able to notice those blessings. When you feel like celebrating something in your life, celebrate by praising God for giving you that blessing. Use uplifting music to express your praise creatively to God, such as by praying with music in the background or singing your prayers to God. Choose from a variety of different musical genres to match your mood: not just rock and pop, but also jazz, reggae, country, classical, electronica, tribal, epic, hip hop, etc. Have fun finding new types of music to express your gratitude to God for what he has done for you – and most importantly, for who he is: a perfect God with many wonderful qualities.
2. Give God a “sacrifice of praise” during the bad times.
Remember that God is always worthy of praise, because his wonderful qualities never change, even though the circumstances of your life change often. Jesus warned that everyone will experience trouble in this fallen world, so you can expect to go through bad times. But you can still praise God when you’re suffering – and God wants you to, because doing so will strengthen your faith. The Bible urges in Hebrews 13:15: “Through Jesus … let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Praising God when your life is not going the way you want costs you something; you must sacrifice your will for God’s will, even when you don’t understand it or don’t like it. But when you give God a sacrifice of praise, you’re declaring that you still believe that God himself is good even when your circumstances are bad, and that you trust God no matter what. That shows God your true faith, which pleases him and strengthens your connection to him. You’ll go through difficult emotions whenever you make a sacrifice of praise, and music can help you express and work through those emotions. Find music that matches the mood of the emotions you’re feeling – such as disappointment, sadness, frustration, anxiety, or anger – and play that music while you pray honestly about your feelings. Then surrender your feelings to God with the faith that he will do what’s best in whatever tough situations you’re facing.
3. Start each day well with morning praise.
Incorporate musical praise into your mornings during each new day. This will refresh your connection to God and remind you to make daily decisions based on your relationship with God as your top priority. You can: set your alarm to wake you up with music; sing to God in the shower; chant your prayers during morning devotions
; and listen to worship music while you’re eating breakfast, doing household chores, or as you commute to work or school. If you play a musical instrument of some kind (such as guitar or piano), establish a habit of playing for God during your morning devotions, even if it’s just for a few minutes each time.
4. Stay connected to God with afternoon praise.
When you’re busy in the midst of your afternoon activities, you can do with them with the right perspective by staying connected to God through musical praise. The Holy Spirit will hear you whenever you take a quick break to sing a praise prayer or play a song on a mobile device while praying a silent prayer of praise along with it. If you can, stream music online or listen to some favorites with headphones while you work. Let the constant background music remind you that God is always working behind the scenes of your life.
5. End your each day well with evening praise.
Praising God with music in the evening will help you reflect on how you’ve noticed him at work in your life that day, and prepare you to sleep peacefully – with the confidence that God is caring for you – at night. If you can, take an evening prayer walk with headphones and a mobile device, listening to music that evokes the mood of the thoughts and feelings you want to express to God. When you enjoy music for entertainment at night (such on a TV show or at a concert), praise God for that gift. Wind down each day with some relaxing music before bedtime, and as you do, entrust your concerns to God’s care with the faith that God will still be working even while you’re sleeping.
Praising God through music is something you can incorporate into your life regularly. Whenever you do, God will hear the song in your soul!
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, produces the About.com site on angels and miracles at: angels.about.com. She is author of the Christian young adult novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Learn more by visiting her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.