From time to time we are encouraged to concentrate on the lyrics of the hymns we sing in worship to God. This is certainly an appropriate exhortation as the sentiments of our heart trump the musical notes and how proficient we are at singing them. Paul says our objective is “speaking to one another … making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19). He further says we are “teaching and admonishing one another” (Col 3:16).
In spite of this I, for one, still get distracted by the music and focus too much on the part I am singing. I often realize too late that my brain has been in neutral and not focused on the lyrics. I pull my mind back to the words only to lose track again.
What to do? I’m trying something to help myself become more attuned to the lyrics; maybe it will help you, too, concentrate better as we sing.
First, purchase your own copy of a song book and keep it handy. Then sit in a quiet place and just read the lyrics. Consider familiar songs and study the poetry. Allow your mind to focus on the words without chopping them up with a melody. I think you will be surprised at the words you have been singing, maybe for years, and haven’t really absorbed the full meaning. And read the songs that you don’t know. You might be inspired by the sentiments alone. This is not a substitute for singing, but it might help us sing better and put our minds in a prayerful attitude.
Consider the following samples of outstanding lyrics (from Songs, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs):
I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day; I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said; and today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. (#463, v 1)
Should Thy mercy send me sorrow, toil and woe, or should pain attend me on my path below. Grant that I may never fail Thy hand to see; grant that I may ever cast my care on Thee. (#411, v 3)
My sin – O the bliss of this glorious tho’t! – my sin , not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (#409, v 3)
O Joy, that sleekest me thru pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee. I trace the rainbow thru the rain and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be. (#434, v 3)
Or, if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky, sun, moon and stars forgot, upward I fly. Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee. Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee! (#328, v 5)
Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here; trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best – lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest. (#378, v 1)
Then to life I turn again, learning all the worth of pain. Learning all the might that lies in a full self-sacrifice. (#506, v 5)
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. (#566, v 1)
I thank You, too, that You have made joy to abound; so many gentle thoughts and deeds circling us round, that in the darkest spot of earth some love is found. I thank You more that all our joy is touched with pain, that shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain; so that earth’s bliss may be our guide and not our chain. (#415, vs 2-3)
If, in the dusk of the twilight, dim be the region afar, will not the deepening darkness brighten the glimmering star? Then, when the night is upon us, why should the heart sink away? When the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day. Whispering hope, O how welcome thy voice, making my heart in its sorrow rejoice. (#461, v 2)
And then one day I’ll cross that river; I’ll fight life’s final war with pain; and then as death gives way to vic-t’ry, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives. (#458, v 2)
I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no pow’r, no wisdom; but I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer, but this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom. (#448, v 3)