Which is more important in our worship, hymns or prayers?
Some of the most exalted expressions of praise in the Bible are in the Bibles “Hymn Book,” the Psalms. They were used in New Testament assemblies (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Singing such truths with due consideration, believers – then and now – would “sing with the spirit” and “with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). The psalms were inspired; our hymns are not. Nevertheless, they contain a considerable weight of biblical truth. The hymns we sing at the Breaking of Bread are, at their best, the result of worship produced by the Spirit and written by Spirit-guided believers. Prayers of worship are, at their best, the result of worship produced by the Spirit and spoken by Spirit-guided believers. Discounting the value of singing such hymns may result from overvaluing our contributions and undervaluing those of others. On the other hand, discounting the value of fresh, biblical, heartfelt prayers of worship will quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
Either an unsuited hymn or a dry prayer can quench the Spirit at the Breaking of Bread. Either a suitable hymn or a sincere, Christ-exalting prayer can deepen the worship of the gathering. One hymn and many prayers of worship may fittingly prepare our hearts for the Breaking of Bread, as may a number of hymns and an equal number of prayers of worship. Both are very important in the hand of the Spirit.
How does a brother know what hymns to suggest at the Breaking of Bread?
Singing is part of our worship (Hebrews 13:15) and worship is by the Spirit of God (Philippians 3:3, JND), therefore He must lead in the selection of hymns. Paul, when he speaks of believers being led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18), refers to the whole tenor of Christian living. Being led by the Spirit in everyday living, through submission to Him and to Gods Word, is prerequisite to experiencing His leading in assembly gatherings. Leading the assemblys worship by the choice of a hymn is as serious a responsibility as leading the assemblys worship in prayer. Younger and older believers should be encouraged to humbly request hymns that will glorify the Lord and contribute to the worship of fellow-believers. The sincere help of some who seldom participate publicly almost always helps a meeting greatly
The late, highly-esteemed Charles Strom remarked that being led by the Spirit “generally means using spiritual wisdom.” Aaronic priests did not function alone; the priestly work of selecting hymns involves a sensitivity to the worship of others. If a believer is enjoying a certain hymn, which is consistent with anothers worship, that hymn may be appropriate to sing. The same could be true if anothers worship forcibly impresses the believer with a certain hymn. Spiritual wisdom may dictate against singing that hymn if there have been too many hymns already or if it is time to break the bread. Sometimes it might be wise to sing only a couple of verses that particularly embody the truth the believer is enjoying. We express Gods character as an orderly God when all things are done “in a becoming and orderly manner” (1 Corinthians 14:40, Weymouth).
Are there ways to improve our singing?
Hopefully, the answer is yes. If we are preparing our children for usefulness in divine things, experience with choral music in school can prove very instructive. Singing together as families while driving or while sitting at the table encourages singing. Singing along with wholesome Christian recordings is helpful. Getting together in fellow-believers homes to sing the hymns we love is uplifting and beneficial to assembly singing. Learning about music could hardly be harmful.
More important than the art in our singing, though, is the heart in our singing. Since singing is so entwined in our past (Psalm 40:3), present (Mark 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), and future (Revelation 5:9), it is difficult to believe – despite ample evidence -that a believer who puts his mind to it and his heart into it cannot sing. If we grasp that our songs express our praise of God, no believer would mumble along or not even mouth the words during the singing (heavenly conditions!). Our Lord deserves our best. Singing “with the spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:15) means that the songs come from the deepest part of our being; they are heartfelt. Is it wrong to say that singing “with the spirit” will produce spirited singing? A Christian who enjoys his salvation and joyously sings hymns from the Believers Hymn Book while hoeing his beans or driving his car will start the assemblys singing in a manner that will draw the others to join in the singing. In a small assembly, singing may be difficult, but whatever their number, worshipful hearts will cultivate “a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 100:1).
Those responsible for the public worship included some David “set over the service of song” and they “ministered . . . with singing” (1 Chronicles 6:31, 32). Evangelical congregations are hiring those with a “song ministry” Will redeemed hearts not gladly volunteer for this service and “serve the Lord with gladness, come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2)?