Sing to the Lord, Alone
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.
An Encouragement, Not a Quick Fix
And maybe I had better clarify the spirit in which I am giving this right now. The spirit in which I am giving this encouragement to sing is like the marriage counseling I 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 if I were to say 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 per day, I am just saying, “If that is missing, probably it could be better.” Or “Try touching her on the back of the neck when she is standing at the sink for no reason whatsoever. It’s not leading anywhere, you 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 your personal devotions.
Sing the Sun Up
And I say this as one who is alone not a natural singer. I love to sing in church. I love to sing with lots of people carrying my voice so I don’t have to hear myself. 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 who just sing. They’re just singing. Jon Bloom is like that. He just sings. 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. I’m not and I am talking to myself 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 sing in the great congregation all the time. But I think they sang when they got up in the morning. Here is Psalm 57:7–8: “I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O 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 look at Psalm 108:1–2: “My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!” That seems to be saying, “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.”
Psalm 59:16 is another one: “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” (Psalm 13:5–6).
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 like in Psalm 63:6–7: “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.” He is not just singing at church.
“The psalmists sang when they got up in the morning.”
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 praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:2). Singing just belonged 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 14:15: “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” He is talking about tongues there. Sometimes he is in the Spirit singing in tongues and sometimes he is not. And so, it seems like Paul sang by himself as part of his personal devotions.
James said this: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). So that probably didn’t mean, wait until you get to church.
The Sweetest Sound
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 aloud.
I will close with this. Noël and I had an apartment in England about 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 not 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 devotions, and, say, singing alone in a car on your way to work?
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, sing in the car, walking out in the woods, wherever. I am just saying that personal singing, not just corporate singing, is a sweet experience that I wish everybody could taste.