Sing to the Lord, Alone
The following is a transcript of the audio.
Pastor John, occasionally I like to check in with you and simply ask if there’s anything off your front burner, anything you are thinking about, from your personal devotions, that you want to share with us here?
Tony, I think what I want to do off my personal devotions is encourage folks to sing to the Lord by themselves in their personal devotions. I believe that the Spirit of God wants to encourage us to sing to the Son of God and to the Father. And the spirit in which I am giving this right now, maybe I had better clarify. The spirit in which I am giving this encouragement to sing is like the marriage counselor now would be giving to somebody if they said: Things aren’t going so well with us. Do you have any advice for us? I am not laying anything down as a detailed prescription or a formula that is going to fix anybody. And I don’t have any intentions of saying how often a person should sing or how long they should sing or how loud they should sing or any specific results that are going to come from singing. It is not like that. It is more like me saying to a husband: Why don’t you just try regularly saying to your wife: I love you? And I am not telling him five times a day, I am just saying: If that is missing, probably it could better. You know? Or try touching her on the back of the neck when she is standing at the sink for no reason whatsoever, not leading anywhere, just felt like reaching out to her. Or try talking well of her in public. In other words, I would just be kind of throwing out these suggestions that I learned over the years and say: I just think your marriages might be enriched by doing those things. That is the spirit in which I am offering this encouragement to sing to the Lord in you personal devotions.
And I say this as one who is not a natural singer alone. I love to sing in church. I love to sing with lots of people carrying my voice. I don’t have to hear me. I don’t default to singing when I am alone. I wish I did. I wish I were that kind of person. I hear some people, they just sing. There is just singing. John Bloom is like that. He just seems to be singing. I don’t do that. I have to say: Oh, it would be good to sing. Let’s sing. So I am kind of preaching to myself here. And the more I have thought about that, like why I am not like that the less I like it. I don’t like it. I don’t like having to be told to sing. I wish I were the kind of person who just sang. So anyway I am not and I am talking to me and anybody like me. It seems to me that the psalmists sang and encouraged us to sing not just in the great congregation. They did all the time. Sing in the great congregation. But I think when they got up in the morning. Here is Psalm 57. I will sing and make melody. Awake, my glory. Awake, oh harp and lyre. I will awake the dawn. So he wakes up in the morning saying: I am going to sing the sun up.
Or Psalm 108, same thing. My heart is steadfast, oh God. I will sing and make melody with all my being. Awake, awake, oh harp and lyre. I will awake the dawn. That seems to be like I am not... I haven’t gone to church. I haven't gone to the temple or to the synagogue. I am just bringing up the sun with my song.
Or Psalm 59. I will sing of your strength. I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning for you have been to me a fortress. He just seems to be overwhelmed by God’s strength in his life and he wants to wake up the morning with it. It is the overflow of joy. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because he has dealt bountifully with me.
So has the Lord dealt bountifully with you? Well, the response of the psalmists was: I will sing to the Lord. That would be, maybe, a good response to add to whatever your responses are to the bounty of the Lord.
And he seemed to sing to the Lord when he woke up at night. Psalm 63. When I remember you upon my bed and meditate upon you in the watches of the night, for you have been my help and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. So he is not just singing at church.
It seems to be something that he just considered part of his being. He said: I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. He is just belong to his being.
And Paul, if you leave the psalmist behind and go over to Paul, here is an amazing thing he said in 1 Corinthians 14. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit and I will pray with my mind also. I will sing praise with my spirit and I will sing with my mind also. He is talking about tongues there and sometimes he is in the Spirit singing in tongues and sometimes he is not. And so it seems like part of Paul’s personal devotions was he sang by himself.
And James said this. Is anyone among you suffering? James five. Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. So that probably didn’t mean wait till you get to church.
So I am not going to make any great promises to anybody. I am just going to say: God would be pleased no matter how bad your voice is and you will be helped, yes you will. Good things will happen in your soul if you sing to the Lord. So get a hymnal or go to Google and print out your favorite worship songs or sing softly so nobody can hear, or sing loud.
I will close with this. Noel and I had an apartment in England about, what, seven years ago on our sabbatical. The most memorable thing of living in that apartment is the Korean couple in the morning who lived above us and we awakened to them singing, the two of them singing every morning. It was one of the sweetest sounds that I have ever heard. And so whether people hear you or don’t doesn’t matter. It will be powerful in your life.
Just for clarity’s sake, are you making any fundamental distinction between singing in daily morning devos, and, say, singing alone in a car on your way to work?
No, no I am not making those distinctions. That is just awesome. I grew up in a home with a mom and dad who sang in the front seat with my sister and me in the back seat. And to this day I look at that and say: What a privilege. I wonder if I am still a Christian, because of looking at my mom and dad and saying: They are not performing. They are not in front of a church. They are not even thinking about us. They are singing their old fashioned spiritual songs because they are overflowing together. So car, you know, walking out in the woods, wherever. I am just saying personal singing, not just corporate singing is a sweet experience that I wish everybody could taste.
Wonderful, thank you Pastor John. Well, but what if you don’t feel like you connect with God at all in singing to him? This was a question raised online not long ago, and Pastor John addressed it in episode #287, titled: “Giving Up on Church.” It can be found in the Ask Pastor John podcast archive, most easily in the free iPhone app. Thank you for listening to this podcast. You and thousands of other listeners tune into this podcast every day — and we are honored by that — so thank you for listening. It is a joy to produce and distribute this podcast free of charge for you. If you’ve found this to be a helpful resource for your Christian growth, we encourage you to consider telling others about the podcast, and of course we are grateful for any financial gift to Desiring God that will help continue to make this free outreach ministry to others possible, as we seek to bring God’s word to bear on topics like personal devotions and singing alone and on very hard topics like we addressed yesterday. Financial gifts can be given online at desiringGod.org — look for the button that says “donate” on the top of the homepage. It’s the gifts of listeners like you that financially support the ministry — so thank you for making this podcast possible as you support the work of Desiring God. Monday we return to talk about a new chapter in John Piper’s legacy. I’m your host Tony Reinke, thank you for listening — and thank you for partnering with us.