Over the past one hundred years, Christians have sung, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free” countless times. Despite what one might think about “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” the hymn rings true in that our joy and freedom in Christ make us want to sing. Yet, sometimes we are not happy and do not feel like singing in corporate worship. It is therefore helpful to consider some aspects of sung praises in order to properly address this feeling.
God saved us to proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9). He seeks true worshipers (John 4:23) who express their worship in song. Singing is an important means of glorifying and enjoying God. Singing expresses our covenant relationship with God and submission to His will. It demonstrates the unity we enjoy in God with His people. We sing to offer adoration, praise, and gratitude to God for His name, perfections, Word, and works. Singing helps us remember and celebrate God’s past saving deeds, rejoice in His present goodness, and rehearse our future heavenly worship. Singing is also a command, gift, and spiritual discipline that is formative not only for what we believe, but how we live. Therefore, proclaim God’s praises.
Worship rightly evokes feelings, but it is not chiefly about how we feel. Our feelings must be informed by God’s Word and subject to Christ’s lordship, not to the whims of personal preference. Scripture commands us to rejoice in the Lord. Singing enlivens our minds, wills, and feelings in ways that words alone cannot. When we engage our whole selves by presenting our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1), He does not despise our worship, but is pleased to bless our obedience with a greater hunger for and joy in Him. Therefore, sing even when you do not feel like it.
Find great encouragement in the knowledge that in worship, Christ is with us. By His blood, we may boldly enter the Most Holy Place (Heb. 10:19). He is our ever-present High Priest who inhabits our praises (Ps. 22:3), sings with us, praises God, and declares His name to us (Heb. 2:12; Ps. 22:22; Rom. 15:9). His presence is our joy (Ps. 16:11) and His joy is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Therefore, pray for Christ’s mercy and aid.
God gives us all we need for life and godliness. Genuine joyful singing, like every discipline, is the work of God’s grace. We cannot muster up joy in our own strength. God gives us the desire and strength to obey Him. Philippians is helpful in showing the relationships among God’s precepts, promises, and provisions: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (2:13); “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (4:13); “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). Therefore, trust in God’s full provision.
Give priority to grateful praise and communion with God in all of life (Ps. 34:1; 113:3; Heb. 13:15). The Psalms model the believer’s desire to be in God’s presence. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD’ ” (Ps. 122:1; see Pss. 26:8; 27:4). As with any ritual, corporate worship is only as meaningful as the relationship, activity, or event to which it points. If Christ’s Word dwells richly in our minds and hearts, joyful corporate worship will follow (Col. 3:16–17). Therefore, prioritize the practice of daily communion with God via His Word, prayer, and song.
If we are not seeking the Lord throughout the week but are living in unrepentant disobedience, we will not feel like singing to the Lord. Our joy will be sapped, our lips silenced, and our vitality dried up (Ps. 32:3–4). We must pray for God to search us, give us repentant hearts, renew our spirits, restore our joy, and open our lips to show forth His praise (51:10–15). Seek the forgiveness of those against whom you have sinned, forgive those who have sinned against you, and remove all bitterness. God promises that in Christ, the genuinely repentant may have full assurance of faith and a clear conscience (Heb. 10:19–25). Therefore, find true joy in the forgiveness of your sins.
Singing is not a passive activity. We are commanded to love, worship, and sing to God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30; Ps. 138:1), in spirit and truth (John 4:24), and with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). We must be spiritually prepared, physically rested, mentally alert, emotionally expectant, and ready to commune with God in worship. The Songs of Ascents (Pss. 120–134) are helpful in refocusing our attention on the joy of entering God’s presence. Therefore, prepare to meet God in corporate worship.
Singing to the Lord, in all its fullness, is not simply reciting a text set to a tune, but expressing the offering of our whole selves to God in vital, personal communion. May God “take my voice, and let me sing, always, only, for my King.”