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When We Have No Words

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A couple months ago, I was invited to write for the Conversations Journal blog, which is intended to generate conversations that lead to transformation. I thought I would share one of my posts here, partly to let you know about that blog, and partly to get us to wrestle with this topic here as well.

I believe music—especially worship music based on Scripture—can be one of the most powerful tools God uses to transform our hearts. This becomes especially true when we engage in corporate worship, where we hear other Jesus followers sing from their hearts. But it’s also true when we’re by ourselves.

Music is powerful. But why?

That’s the question I tried to run after in my piece for Conversations Journal. You can read the whole piece for yourself, but here is the critical nugget:

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Music is essentially an expression of the heart, so it can help us express our hearts as well. The lyrics can provide words when we have no words, and the sound can provide emotions when we feel numb. (That’s also why the music we choose is really critical.)

When I had no words to pray, and when I didn’t know how to feel toward God, several songs helped me. I found myself saying, “Yes, Lord. What they just sang—that’s how I feel or that’s what I want.” The lyrics of the songs became a platform from which to open my heart in prayer. They drew from my heart emotions I didn’t know were there and desperately needed to express.

I discovered a deep love and longing for God I had forgotten how to feel.

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Have you ever listened to a song and something in you connected to the lyrics and you weren’t sure why? Like something was happening in your heart that was deeper than just enjoying good music? Have you ever stopped to think God may be speaking to you in that moment–or perhaps you need to say something to God?

I experience this often with music. In that post, I give an example. At first, I just liked the music. Then, I was drawn in by the lyrics and how I could relate to what they were saying. Over time, God would use different lines in the song to remind me of Scriptures about his love and his desire for me to walk with him. And I would remember ways I had avoided him. Eventually, I began to sing the song myself not just as lyrics but as a prayer from my heart.

I believe we have an opportunity to do this every time we listen to heartfelt music based on the truth of Scripture, and I believe the opportunity is even greater when we worship together.

Music is powerful. It touches something very deep and gives us words to pray. Maybe, just maybe, this is one of the reasons God included 150 ancient Israelite songs in Scripture (the Book of Psalms)—to give us words when we have no words.

What do you think? Do you agree that music is transforming, and if so, why?

Have you ever listened to a song that helped you pray or that moved your heart closer to God in a way that actually changed your behavior or your attitudes or your relationships?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matt Rosloniec #

    I agree with this 200%! Music IS what brought me to the Lord. I grew up catholic, but couldn’t really say I was a “christian.” I was just going through the paces and doing what I was told I had to do. Little did I know there was nothing I had to do – other than of course, accept the gift that had already been given. Being a musician all my life, music was already huge for me. Then I discovered the band Kutless (recommended to me oddly enough by a non-Christian). Their lyrics ripped me apart, broke me, and ultimately lead me to Christ who rebuilt me. I never once cried singing a song until I sang their songs. Absilutely amazing.

    August 1, 2012
    • Darrell Yoder #

      That’s awesome, Matt. I’d love to hear more of your story. Care to share a specific song?

      August 1, 2012
      • Matt Rosloniec #

        Sure Darrell. The very FIRST song I ever heard by Kutless is called Run. They recorded it many years ago, but it still speaks just as strongly to me today as it did when I first heard it over 4 years ago! That song lead me to a couple more called ‘Sea of Faces’ and ‘Strong Tower.’ Look them up. They are rock-style worship songs with great lyrics!

        August 2, 2012
        • Darrell Yoder #

          Those are some great songs…been meaningful to me over the years too.

          August 2, 2012
  2. Nathaniel Lloyd #

    Darrell – not that long ago I happened on the music video, on youtube, for the song “Teardrop” by Massive Attack (I believe that it’s the theme song to the show “House”). I was really moved by what I saw – a child, in the womb, slowly coming to life and experiencing the music. It made me think about the abortion issue in a very personal and direct way.

    That’s not what the intention of it is, to be sure, but that’s what I saw… In this case, it wasn’t the lyrics, but instead the visuals. The music was the opening for me, though, because I find it to be a rather captivating song anyways.

    August 10, 2012
  3. Kristy Hecht #

    Hi Darrell,
    A couple weeks before this sermon, I was doing my devotional & Zephaniah 3:17 was the passage to read..”The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” At first I found myself humming “He is Mighty to Save” because we often sing that in church during worship but then I got to thinking…God rejoices over me with singing…it was the first time I actually thought of God as singing…there is just something that touches me to think of my God breaking into song because He rejoices over us!!

    April 12, 2013
  4. Gayle #

    I so agree Kristy!! I’ve believe too that music is very powerful in preparing us to hear God’s Word. Many Christian artist use scripture in their lyrics which brings scripture more alive and easier for me to remember. For instance, Zephaniah 3:17 is the main lyrics to a song on an album called Glory Revealed. There are many times when I have used songs as prayers and reminders of God’s love and faithfulness.

    April 12, 2013
  5. Darrell Yoder #

    Kristy, that is such a powerful thing to know that God is singing over us, delighting and rejoicing as we walk with him. I’ve heard that verse but never quite thought of it that clearly. Thanks for pointing that out!

    Gayle, you are so right. There’s something mysterious and beautiful about how music and biblical yet honest lyrics move and shape our hearts. Music has been a huge part of my journey and my growing relationship with Christ.

    Good stuff!

    April 12, 2013
  6. Jamie #

    Hi Darrell,

    Music has always been lifechanging for me. I started singing in the church at age five with my dad and moved from there into a study of music at University, but I never really felt the overwhelming power of worship until the year after I graduated.

    I started working with a traveling group of children from Uganda and I was nervous to say the least. I had graduated three days previous and thought it would be a great idea to jump on a plane and be greeted in a different state by a stranger. God knew that I would need a little encouragment and reasurrence. My first day with the children, I stepped into their room in the middle of devotions. I can’t even begin to explain the power of God’s presence in that room. I was shocked to see 26 children, who had experienced loss and suffering beyond my understanding, praising God without a shadow of a doubt. They had their hands raised and were leading themselves in worship to the God they so loved. Right then and there, I broke down in tears. To this day I look to their example when presenting myself before God in worship.

    April 12, 2013
    • Darrell Yoder #

      Thanks for sharing, Jamie! That’s awesome.

      April 13, 2013

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