There are certain habits that are synonymous with spiritual growth. We call these things spiritual disciplines, and they’re things like reading the Bible, praying, fasting, among others. But one habit that doesn’t make the list very often is singing.
That’s a bit surprising given how many times in Scripture we aren’t just asked to sing, but commanded to do so. And maybe even more than being commanded, singing is essential for the life of the disciple.
Let me give you a few brief reasons singing should no longer be the most ignored spiritual disciple.
We are forgetful.
I’m not talking about forgetting where I parked my car (which incidentally do all the time). I’m talking about being spiritually forgetful; I’m talking about being forgetful at the soul-level. We hear about the promises of God, over and over again. We read them, meditate on them, study them, sometimes even memorize them, but then at the first sign of trouble in our lives, the questions start. We begin to doubt. We wonder if God is who we thought He was, or if there is even a God at all. That’s why we sing.
God has designed us this way. Singing, and music in general, connects with us at a level nothing else does. It lifts the eyes to heaven and the soul follows with it. Perhaps that’s why, throughout the history of Christianity, one of the greatest tools for teaching theology has been music. After all, one of the earliest Christian hymns is the great Christological passage of Philippians 2.
We are emotional.
Emotions are a gift; they’re part, I believe, of what it means to be created in God’s image. Music and singing helps connect what our minds might know but our hearts do not feel. While we can’t be ruled by our emotions, if we never engage emotionally with God, then our faith is stale.
Jesus Himself told the woman at the well that a day was coming when the true worshippers would worship in spirit and in truth; that is, they would worship with the heart and the head. They would worship through their knowledge of God and their love of God.
Surely this is at least one of the reasons why we are commanded to sing; God wants a song in our hearts and our lips because of those times when our mind might remember but our hearts are forgetful.
We are prideful.
Ever get caught singing in the car? Someone looking at you from another traffic lane? Me too. It’s embarrassing. And for those of us who don’t have great voices, it can even be a little embarrassing to sing loudly and proudly with the fellowship of God’s people. And maybe that’s part of the point.
Singing, for most of us, is undignified. We don’t have trained voices; you’ll never catch us on stage with a microphone. Singing is for children; not for mature, amateur adults. If that’s true, then the choice to sing where others can hear you, is the choice to forego your pride. Singing is a choice of humility.
Let’s do it. Let’s do it loudly. Let’s do it for the sake of our souls and the glory of God.