Praying Twice in Lyrics and Melody

Words: Archbishop Christopher Prowse

music-ministryOne of the insights of the saints over the centuries is that when we pray in hymns, we pray twice. We pray in both the lyrics and in the melody of the hymn. This is a beautiful thought. It is so easy to do. We all love hymns and songs in general.

I know, over years as a Parish Priest, when I want to encourage the congregation to sing and we have no hymns books, I just start up a hymn that is well known. I try to sing the first line and in general everybody follows with the rest of the chorus. Some examples of this would be the opening lines of the hymn, “Hail, Redeemer King Divine”, or “Hail, Queen of Heaven….”. Another example that comes to mind is “Come as you are, that’s how I love you…” All these are favourite hymns sung throughout Australia and do engender a prayerfulness, both in lyrics and melody.

It is hymns, however, that have the words of Scripture as their lyrics that I find particularly attractive. A great way of memorising the Scriptures is by singing them! We all know of the Taizé hymns, which are generally all from Scripture. One that comes to mind is “Stay with me…, watch with me, watch and pray.” Another great Scripture Canticle to Mary, “The Magnificat”, is in different hymn forms and is a wonderful way of entering into the world of scriptural prayer by singing.

Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother sitting me on her lap and singing to me. I am not sure if she was singing hymns or just popular songs, but she was certainly comforting me in this way as a young child. I wonder, whether grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters can teach their young ones in a similar manner. It would be great if families could learn to sing together as they sometimes gather for prayers before meals or for special occasions. Then there would be a great connection between hymn singing at Mass and hymn singing at home.

We are all busy people. We know this too much! Well, if that is the case, let us at least sing when we pray. We will then be doubling our prayer time!