25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. – Acts 16:25-27
PRAISE HIM IN THE SECRET PLACE
As we prepare to meet for worship this week at HEART we wanted to focus our attention on cultivating a heart of praise. Acts 16 is an incredible story of the power of praise and worship. Paul and Silas are in prison for doing the work of the Lord. In the midst of their bleak circumstance, their choice to praise not only brought about their freedom, but salvation to the jailer and his family.
God does not need our praise and worship. We worship Him more for our benefit than His. Bringing praise and worship to God reminds us of His power and authority, and positions us in a place of submission and awe. It diminishes the power of sin and darkness over our lives, and brings attention to who God is and not only to what He can do.
Whatever your circumstance – praise! Praise in our ‘midnight’ hour magnifies God for who He is, and not just what He can do. God dwells in the praises of His people, so we can be sure that as we lift His name in worship, He is here! The style and how you express your praise and worship is not as important as the response of the heart behind it.
Read more below about why we sing.
A big group of people singing together is odd. It really is. Other than a baseball game or occasional birthday party, people don’t usually stand around and sing. But we do every Sunday at church. Why?
For starters it is a part of our history and tradition. We come from a long line of people who sing to and about God. From King David to Bach to Martin Luther to Bono to Sufjan Stevens… men and women have often expressed their faith, whether in painful cries or through passionate praise, with singing.
There’s something significant about the fact that whenever we gather, we sing. But singing isn’t the point— at the heart of our singing is a shared experience. Some people enjoy singing and belt it out with passion and energy. That energy is crucial because there are always those among us who can’t find it in ourselves to sing the words, but just hearing it on someone else’s lips gives hope. But there are also those among us who are less inclined to belt it out and more prone to ponder the words. That kind of deep engagement and reflection is just as crucial. Yet whether a person likes to sing or not, singing isn’t the point. At the heart of our singing is the shared experience of encountering God together.
“We come from a long line of people who sing to and about God.
From King David to Bach to Martin Luther to Bono to Sufjan Stevens…”
Often we sing really old songs, songs full of enthronement language: kings, servants, robes, crowns, and diadems. But most of us haven’t used a diadem in years—like, hundreds of years. Yet we keep using this kind of language to sing about God. Why? To remind ourselves that even though the world is constantly changing there is something, someone, unchanging. Some traditions have even used songs as maps, as if the words and notes laid down a trail for others to follow. So we join the chorus of those who for thousands of years have acknowledged that there is something “More” by routinely, intentionally, and often musically creating space to remind ourselves of and orient ourselves around this “More”. The singing isn’t about what people like but rather about together orienting ourselves around God.
“There is a point at which literal language fails and poetry
is all we’re left with for describing the beauty and truth of who God is.”
Most of what we sing is poetic and not literal: in the Psalms God is like a rock or a shepherd, the righteous are like palm trees or the cedars of Lebanon. There is a point at which literal language fails and poetry is all we’re left with for describing the beauty and truth of who God is. Poetry is porous; it invites a broad spectrum of interpretation and meaning. It’s why we can sing the same song and read the same Bible and have endlessly different experiences. Poetry might be the only equipment we have for wrapping our minds around the bigness of God.
Ironically, there is always a moment in our singing when a leading voice drops away and together we find a collective voice. It never fails, and somehow in that moment everyone is leading and no one is leading. This is the kind of thing that happens when a group of people start tapping into the reality and mystery of a God who is “one”..
Music might be the only equipment we have for wrapping our minds around the majesty and wonder of God. Singing seems to tap into deeper and more honest places than words alone ever could. It has been said that music is the language of the soul. We believe it.