Our anthems and hymns are often taken word for word, or paraphrased from the very Bible we hold most dear – God’s Most Holy Word.

God’s Word

So when we sing those words, what are we thinking? We are encouraged by Paul to “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in (our) hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). He also says, “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord… ” (Eph. 5:18,19). Thus, it is in or with our hearts that praise must begin.

Stop and “think”

Therefore, perhaps the first element we need to consider in our praise is to draw our every thought into a reverent attitude as we approach our God. We need to think about what we are going to sing or play. In this hectic, modern age, stopping to think goes against the grain of our society. (We are usually told: “buy now”, “pay later”, “must have”…). Our psalms, hymns and spiritual songs have been chosen for the appropriate meeting. Can we consider the reason behind the choice? Is there a theme being followed? Is there joy or sadness or a special care that needs to be addressed? Let us sing mindfully.

Scriptural references

Usually we can see the numbers of hymns on the hymn board before we sing them. To really sing with our heart, let’s have a look at the words before they are out of our mouths. A terrific project is to “mark up” our hymn books with the relevant scriptural references. The anthem, “Throughly wash me” became so much more meaningful to the present writer when it was pointed out, years ago, that it was from Psalm 51:2, the setting being David’s sin with Bathsheba, as too, “After Thy loving kindness, Lord.” The Psalms are already marked and lists of scriptural references are available.

Improving

To improve our worship let us think more about it. How do we learn the hymns in our hymn book? By singing them, over and over! Why not host a regular hymn singing at your home and have everyone come with their “favourite” or one they would really like to learn? Throughout the day, try to memorize a hymn when going about the daily chores, or in a lunch break, or while walking to work. “Make the hymns part of your week and your hymn singing won’t be weak!” Teach your children easy hymns, as there are many they will really enjoy. It is just by repetition, singing hymns with mum and dad or grandparents, etc, that our future ecclesia can begin learning about praise.

Listening

Hearing plays a vital role in worship. Our instrumentalists should not only have practised the music to get the right notes, right phrasing, right tempo, right dynamics, but will have become very familiar with the words they are accompanying.

The words are vitally important. But if we give an “uncertain sound”, what then? Are we really singing our best with our hearts if we render at a sluggish pace and without conviction the words, “The days are quickly flying and Christ will come again”? Hymns are prayers. May we therefore strive to improve our worship and really do something positive concerning our hymn singing. We, of all people should be a joyous community, and praise should constantly be on our lips, full of thanks to our Creator.

“Let us then, with gladsome mind, praise the Lord for He is kind…”

Footnote

The above article notes that “hymns are prayers”. This is true and we should consider, too, that praise is the highest form of worship. Praise shows our appreciation for what the Father has done, and during it our minds are absorbed with the knowledge of His great goodness and mercy. So when we unite in praise in the “assembly of the saints” with all minds focused upon God and His mighty works, we give to Him the highest honour and anticipate the songs and everlasting joy of the Kingdom. Ed.