Singing as Prayer

Brother John Raymond
August 8, 1993

	Singing is a special form of prayer. The great Father of the
 Church St. Augustine tells us that when one sings one prays twice.
 Maybe what he meant was that when one sings one is really doing two
 things. One is the actual words of the hymn which one sings as a
 prayer and the other is singing itself as a form of prayer honoring
	One always associates St. Francis of Assisi with singing. From
 his biographies one learns that he liked singing very much. Maybe
 that is one of the reasons why the Franciscan spirit passed on by
 St. Francis is such a joyful one.
	Singing is very special. It seems to be something which comes to
 us almost naturally. Every culture has had some form of singing.
 Religious songs especially lift one up, almost above one's self,
 stirring one's mind and heart to a greater love of God. One
 experiences this not only by one's own singing but by listening to
 others sing. Personally I find the singing of John Michael Talbot, a
 contemporary Catholic singer, very uplifting. He has composed his
 own original melodies to some of the prayers of Holy Mass as well as
 various psalms from the Old Testament. Could it be that God likes
 singing so much that He planted it into our very nature?
	That God likes singing is evident in the Sacred Scriptures. The
 prophetic and inspired psalms of the Old Testament were hymns sung
 to God by the people of Israel. King David is believed to be the
 author of most if not all of them. This great King of the Old
 Testament was very fond of playing music. Scripture tells us that he
 used to play music for King Saul as a young man. Also, he is the one
 who "danced with all his might" before the Ark of the Covenant upon
 its return to Jerusalem. This musical zealot for God was chosen to
 be part of the lineage for the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who
 came to be referred to as the "Son of David."
	The late Bishop Sheen in one of his talks drew special attention
 to the only reference in the New Testament where Our Lord sang.
 After the institution of the Holy Eucharist Scripture says, "And
 after reciting a hymn, they (Jesus and the Apostles) went out to the
 Mount of Olives. (Mark Chapter 14, Verse 26) Bishop Sheen says that
 Our Lord sang because of His great joy that He was soon to bring
 about our redemption. Maybe it was also because of His great joy in
 having instituted the Sacrament of His Love - the Holy Eucharist.
 But regardless of the motive that Our Lord did sing and enjoyed it
 seems evident. Sometimes one forgets that Jesus was truly human as
 well as truly Divine. As the perfect keeper of the Law of Moses
 Jesus prayed and sang as any traditional Jew did.
	That God likes singing one has further proof from one of the
 Letters of St. Paul. He says, "With gratitude in your hearts sing
 psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God." (Colossians 3, 16) St.
 Paul practiced what he preached about singing. We are told that late
 at night while he was in prison with Silas the two of them "were
 praying and singing God's praises." (Acts 16, 25) Their singing must
 have been a pretty effective prayer because immediately there was an
 earthquake that freed them as well as all the other prisoners!
	Even in Heaven one will continue singing. St. John tells us about
 hearing a great crowd in Heaven that was singing, "Alleluia! Victory
 and glory and power to our God . . .. (Revelation 19, 1) So if we
 are going to be singing in Heaven for all eternity we had better
 start practicing now!