As the band members sing I close my eyes and feel the music hum through me. The bass and guitar, the drums, the piano, and all of our voices rising together fill me up from my core and spreads out through my limbs. I can feel the corners of my lips turn up into a smile as I sing and my heart beats faster; keeping time with the praise song. I leave band practice feeling refreshed, full and whole. This is the diving healing power of music.
Music has always been a part of my life. My mother sang to and with us as children; simple songs like Love, Love or The Inchworm. I learned to play the piano, and then the flute at a fairly young age. I sang in the church children’s choir, and as a junior member of the senior choir. I sang in musicals, choirs, choruses and revues and played many instruments both at school and church. At 13, I received a guitar for Christmas—a Yamaha Eterna—which I taught myself to play in order to lead worship at our PYPS weekends. I still have it, and despite it being time worn and not able to hold tune as well as it used to, I still play it often. I learned the value of music, not only as an art; but as food for my soul.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to me then, that music plays such an important role in our worship services. My home church is a very musical congregation. We have a praise team to lead worship which includes many voices, a piano (sometimes an organ, sometimes a keyboard), a bass guitar, a rhythm guitar, a drum kit, and other instruments as well: flutes, clarinets, trumpets, and trombones. It’s this varied instrumental and vocal leadership that gives rise to so many memorable musical experiences in our worship history. We have songs that are used to call our congregation to worship, songs used as the prayer of illumination, songs for benediction, songs for praise, songs for thanksgiving—and despite the lack of “official” titles for the category—we have many songs for healing.
I have suffered from depression and anxiety for several years and have sought healing in the medical world in a variety of ways (and I don’t mean to replace traditional medicine with music), but there is little that describes the healing that is found in worshipping in prayer, movement, and song. When I suffered panic attacks at the very idea of leaving my house, I would sit on the floor of our living room and sing, “Jesus, Lover of my Soul,” to myself in gasps and whispers until I could breathe again. When we lost babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, I would sing, “Jesus Loves Me,” to our angel babies from my hospital bed. And now that I am further along the road of healing I can sing, “Lord I lift your Name on High” and “Stronger” with all the breath I can muster.
There is a story in scripture that comes to mind when discussing the healing power of music. In 1 Samuel 16 we find Saul, having been rejected by the Lord as king over Israel, tormented by an evil spirit. Saul’s servants see how he is being tormented and suggest that his servants find someone who plays the harp. One of the servants knows of David, having just been anointed by Samuel, who is a harp player. In verses 22 and 23 we read, Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.” Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (NIV) This story both amazes and inspires me. David, a faithful, anointed servant of God plays music on the harp—an instrument unique in its capability of playing both melody and harmony—and the sacred music brings relief to Saul, one who is tormented by an “evil spirit.” Talk about the divine healing power of music!
This passage resonates with me on a very personal level. I have often thought of depression and anxiety as “evil spirits” who hang around, whispering in my ear and leaning on my back. Yet, when in the middle of worship—hearing my voice and the voices of our praise team and congregation raised together—singing, “Magnify the Lord, for He is good, for He is worthy,” those whispers are silenced, the weight on my back is lifted, I am renewed. Listening to, singing, and playing music in worship fills me with a warmth and comfort and joy that is not often replicated in other aspects of my life.
Questions for consideration:
- Think of a song or piece of music that speaks to you. How does it make you feel?
- What do you use music for in your life? Entertainment? Worship? Devotions? Stress relief?
- Do you think that God speaks to us through music? Did David know that the Lord would use him to heal Saul?