Music prayer employs lyrics and notes in a unified expression of both the principles and the playfulness of our relationships with God.
1. Think about the kind of music that stirs you. Consider your church’s style of worship, the tunes you listen to in the car, and music you own or request for gifts. Does this music provide a vehicle for prayer already? Perhaps you will wish to do a little research to find a style of sacred music that is more in keeping with your preferences than whatever your church uses. Or you might want to break out of your listening habits and try something different. In any case, find a piece of music that moves you.
2. Consider the lyrics. If you cannot understand the language, find a translation. Often classical church music is sung in Latin, but the program or liner notes include a translation for English-speakers. If not, you may be able to type the title of the piece into your search engine to find a translation online. Alternatively, you may find that translating the words yourself provides the interaction you need to truly consider the meaning. Even if they are in English, read them from the liner anyway, or write them down as you hear them. What is the composer saying? What is the context of the song? What do the words mean to you? What aspect of your own life do they touch upon? If the music is not sacred music, how do the words nevertheless express your thoughts to God?
3. Pray the words aloud (in English) without the music, listening to the meaning they evoke. Do they praise God’s character, offer him thanks, beseech his presence or his promises, make confession? How is it that they speak for you at this time?
4. Listen to the music again. Hear the words, whether in English or not. Notice how your heart rate and breathing respond as you anticipate the music. Feel the meaning of the words working through the music.
5. Now close your eyes and listen to the piece. Resist the urge to understand or pick out specific words, instruments, or rhythms. Hear the whole music.
6. Listen a third time, allowing the piece and your response to speak to God on behalf of yourself and others. What are you saying to him? What might he be saying to you?
7. The previous steps begin with an analytical approach and move into hearing the whole music and allowing it to become prayer. Over time this process may grow less intentional, more organic. If you find the playfulness of your music time with God turning into background noise again, return to the piece-by-piece process and retake the music as your song to God.
8. Make a written note of how the music, the words, and your own petitions intersected as you prayed. Or share this with your small group or a spiritual friend.