I love music! I could go on and on about my favorite musicals, songs, hymns, and liturgies. There are times that I am easily distracted when reading (especially the Bible) because I will read something that will cause a song to come to mind based on or similar to what I was reading and all the sudden I’m singing rather than reading. Or if I am listening to music while working sometimes I get distracted by the music and I find myself singing more than working. Just the other night I had trouble falling asleep because of the songs playing through my head, and there are days I wake up with a song stuck in my head and I wonder what I must have been dreaming about. All that’s to say who doesn’t get music stuck in their head? But do you ever have a song that gets stuck in your head and as it keeps repeating over and over you realize that that song is speaking to something going on in your life? Or one of those times you are in your car and a song comes on the radio that was what you needed to hear? I am sure that we all have stories of these moments of the power of music in our lives. Of the ways that the words of songs can express what we are feeling better than we could. The way that music can reach us when we are felling low and raise us up.
Recently for me this happened with a beautiful Brazilian Kyrie that was used at an online prayer vigil my diaconate held. It is called “For the Troubles and the sufferings/Pelas dores deste mundo,” (you can take a listen to it here www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIGhNbCe0dM) the lyrics are:
For the troubles and the sufferings of the world,
God, we call upon your mercy:
The whole creation’s laboring in pain!
Lend an ear to the rising cry for help
From oppressed and hopeless people.
Come! Hasten your salvation, healing love!
We pray for peace, The blessed peace that comes from making justice,
To cover and embrace us.
Have mercy, Lord!
We pray for power,
The power that will sustain your people’s witness:
Until your kingdom comes,
The words struck me as how poignant they were for all that is going on around us right now from a global pandemic, to the continued violence toward our black and brown skinned siblings. From our country’s treatment of immigrants, to environmental issues, and so much more. It put words to some of the prayers on my heart that I was struggling to put words to myself. The power of the ancient refrain “Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy,” lifted up as prayer when we aren’t sure what to pray ourselves.
Music is a powerful force that goes back centuries. Some of the earliest music that was written down were the liturgies of the Early Church. But even before that we had the Psalms, a collection of hymns and prayers composed throughout the history of ancient Israel. The Psalms express a wide range of human emotions from praise and thanksgiving to lament and questioning. As we read through the psalms or as we listen to the radio we likely each encounter words and music that touch us deeply. They may speak to the songs and sighs of our hearts that are sometimes too deep for words. Or they may express our joy and move us to dance. Studies have been done about the healing power of music. How it can help us express emotions and feelings that are either too hard to express ourselves or that we didn’t even know we were holding onto. Music can move us to tears and to dance. It can move us to sing along and to action. It can help us lift up the prayers on our heart when the cares of the world seem too much to bear.
If you are struggling to find the words to pray these days, take a look through the Psalms or turn on some music, to see how the Holy Spirit might bring you the words you need through the words others have written.