Sunday, July 22, 2018

Prayer, Song, and Lamentations


The three most popular monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, define the relationship between G'd and humanity differently.  However, all three agree on one major principle-prayer is a foundation of worship.



Due to my influence of Joseph Campbell and a fan of his book A Hero With A Thousand Faces, I am on a quest to uncover the similarities and differences in religious traditions and their impact on spiritual practices. Recently, I pondered on the concept of songs and prayer as means to unite religious communities and strengthen faith. Coincidentally, in the summer of 2018, ten professors of the Candler School of Theology are headlining a summer prayer series at Glenn Memorial Methodist Church. Because of my interest in prayer and music, I attended the Prayer as Song program lead by Dr. Don Saliers.

Below are my reflections from the program:
When We Sing, We Pray Twice:  Traditionally, prayer as song is a staple in Judaism and Christianity, the usage vary depending on the denomination. Both faiths use prayer books with songs, implement singing as a part of religious services, and utilize the Psalms as the foundation for prayer and musical compositions. To  gain insight on the beliefs and struggles of a congregation, listen to their songs  The music shared expounds on their history, dreams, and hopes.  For example, Negro Spirituals are songs written by people of African decent who experienced great suffering and struggle.  The music and words are reflections of their particular journey and relationship with G'd. The spoken lyrics are a remembrance of the history, and their voices express the mood with deep emotions-praying twice.

Learn About G'd Through Songs: Music helps the mind learn facts by heart. As a young child, I learned my ABC's by singing a popular song. Also through music, students are taught religious history.  For an example, the lyrics of Go Down, Moses, retell the Exodus story of Prophet Moses and the Israelites, a story in both the Bible and Quran.  Also, Silent Night, composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by by Joseph Mohr, details the story of the Nativity.  During holidays, specific songs are used to recount the past in a current setting. This common history builds bridges between generations. 

Praise and Lamentations: The human experience is a sine wave, one with peaks and valleys, as are our prayers as songs.  Look through any song book, and you will find music that express a wide range of human emotions. Songwriters compose songs of praise, thanks and appreciation.  On the flip side, songs of lamentations are expressions of grief and sorrow. We connect with songs that express our feelings. To be whole, the full gamut of our reality must be expressed honestly.  Songs provide clarity and enable us to see that our problems are not unique unto ourselves.

In Your Own Words:  Scripture was written thousands of years ago; songs are written daily.  Human troubles are timeless, but our interpretations of them reflect the vernacular of its time.  Through music, we can develop a fresh look on the human condition.  Music evolves and reflects various taste, geography, and etiquette. The diversity shows our uniqueness and similarities, which encourage empathy. Anyone with a pencil and paper, or computer, can compose a song. You are able to create and express your truth.  The Billboard charts include contemporary listings for New Age and Gospel music.

As a child, I remember hearing, "We can't all talk together, but we can sing together." I see this truth as an adult everyday.  Music is a human unifier.  We do not expect everybody to experience the same song at the same time, human beings are too complex for that to happen.  But, we learn about different cultures and specific conditions through music, and we learn and strengthen our faith in G'd through prayers as songs.

Note, G'd is spelled without an 'o' in some religious circles. Why "G'd" instead of God? Retrieved
from https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/486809/jewish/Why-Gd-instead-of-G-o-d.htm

Below are a few musical compositions to consider:
Yemen Blues
23 Psalm
My Soul is Thirsting
Go Down, Moses
Quarter to Africa
Od yavo shalom alenu

I would love to hear from you.  Please comment:

3 comments:

Unknown said...

I love that notion of singing together

I appreciate what you’ve written

Alan Sugar said...

One of my favorite songs is “Skylark” by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael.

Steven Gold said...

Thank you for the article and the beautiful music sampling. Music at its best is deeply spiritual and soul-stirring.