What Should Worship Songs Do?

            Singing is an essential part of the Christian faith. Song is not just in the Bible, but it is woven throughout the Scriptures. Adam greets his newly formed wife with poetry (Genesis 2:23-24) and the Scripture’s final book is filled with songs to the King of Kings (Revelation 4:8, 11, 5:9-10, 12, 13, 7:12, etc.). In between we have the songs of Moses (Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 32), Hannah’s Song (I Samuel 12), the Song of the Bow (II Samuel 1) the Psalms and Mary’s Song (Luke 1:46-55). Our Lord intended for singing to be part of our praise to Him and our sanctification of one another (Ephesians 5:18-20, Colossians 3:16-17). This is why at Christ Church we try to take our singing seriously.
            This is the first of several blog posts on songs in worship. In this one I will explain what role the songs play in worship. Throughout these posts,  I will focus mainly on the content of the songs and only slightly on the music itself. Perhaps in the future I will do a paper on what music is appropriate for church.
What Should Worship Songs Do?
Scripturally, there are three primary purposes for songs in worship.  First, songs are for praise.  We are the redeemed of the Lord. We are the ones who have been bought with the shed blood of Christ. Our lives should be characterized by praise and thanksgiving.  Here are some songs we sing that focus on praise: Psalm 45, Psalm 122, Psalm 148, Holy, Holy, Holy, and Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

Second, songs are for prayer and supplication.  Many songs are prayers set to music. We ask the Lord to help us, to remember us, to forgive us, and to deliver us.  In our songs we ask God to draw near to us and incline his ear to us. Many of the Psalms fit into this category, especially psalms of lament.  Here are some prayers we sing: Psalm 5, Psalm 6, Psalm 119, O God of Earth and Altar, and Be Thou My Vision.

Finally, songs are for teaching. The two reasons above are vertical. They are about our relationship to God. This third reason is horizontal. Songs are one of the ways we teach one another (Colossians 3:16). Of course, all songs teach us. But some songs are actually directed to one another. For example Psalm 1 is about the man who loves God’s law. It is not praise, nor prayer, but doctrine and teaching. In Psalm 100 we do not address God, but we address each other and indeed the whole earth, calling upon them to praise their Maker. Many of our Christmas songs are also directed to each other. (See, O Come All Ye Faithful and Good Christian Men Rejoice.)  Finally, we have songs like The Son of God Goes Forth to War and O Worship the King, which are more horizontal in nature.

Songs in worship have these three primary purposes, praise, prayer, and teaching. Next time you are in worship look at the songs we sing and ask which category they fall into.