A few months ago, something really amazing happened to me. I mentioned before that I’d recently picked up the violin after over 15 years of using it in the closet as a classy shelf for collecting dust. At that time, I was searching for ways that I could show God I loved him and I had the idea of playing a song for him. To say I was rusty doesn’t begin to describe my pitiful attempts, and the fact that my poor violin had a bent bridge, worn strings, and there was no rosin on the bow didn’t help much. Nevertheless, I played.
I did this a few times, sometimes playing songs I’d heard before (I originally learned to play by ear, so this isn’t terribly difficult for me, if the piece is simple) or songs that I’d played once upon a time as a little girl. But one night when my husband and I had some friends over and we were having a time of worship and prayer, I experienced an overwhelming desire to play the violin. Not wanting to play in front of my friends (I felt embarrassed), I tried to ignore it, but the feeling persisted. Finally, I went into my bedroom, closed the door and picked up the violin… and started to play.
It wasn’t a song I was trying to learn, or a song I’d played as a girl. It was a song I’d never heard before. I sat in my room and played something completely random but incredibly beautiful. It ended as spontaneously as it had begun, I played for a little while and then it was just over. I tried to keep going, but there was nothing there. The funny thing is that in those few minutes even the tone and quality of my playing was different. Despite what my husband likes to say to encourage me, I’m truly not that great on the violin. I screech every now and then, or the bow will skip and slide (especially so then, before I went out and splurged on some new strings and a cake of rosin!) But in that moment, at that time, it was beautiful.
Since then, I have used the violin as an instrument of prayer many times. It seems that I’ll often have so much on my heart, but lack the words to express them and the violin “speaks” for me. I recently wrote an article in which I mentioned how close I have begun to feel to God since I started actively doing things to show Him I love Him. Today I find myself wondering if there is more to it.
This morning, as I sat rocking my fussy baby, I hummed a little tune to her and as I did, I considered the fact that it had been a long time since I’d played the violin. Rather than go to get it (which my baby wouldn’t have appreciated at all!) I started to direct my humming to God. As I did that, I thought of all the things I wanted to thank Him for, and all the things I wanted to ask Him to help me and others around me with. I thought of needs and heart issues and desires and praises and thankfulness and all the things that I haven’t seemed to find time to talk with Him about lately. Only as I directed my humming toward Him, I realized that it hasn’t been a lack of time, it’s been a lack of desire.
You see, I have always had an incredibly difficult time in prayer. For the strangest reason, I get stuck feeling like there is a “right” way to pray. It leaves me tongue tied and clueless and distracted when I try to talk with God. I’ve used the violin to “talk” with God for a while now – ever since I first started looking for ways to show God I loved Him – so I didn’t see the correlation until today. Perhaps it isn’t just the fact that I’ve been making efforts to show God I love Him that has led to my feeling of closeness to Him. Perhaps it’s the fact that I have also discovered a new way to pray.*
I can’t express to you the joy I have in prayer without words. I can’t begin to explain how freeing it is not to search for what to say or how to say it, but instead to simply lift up my heart to Him. Are there things I need to pray about and people I need to pray for? Certainly. And I do! But I don’t use words. And I think my relationship with God is better for it.
“I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.” (Psalm 77:6)
*It occurs to me that there might be others who have felt the same about prayer as I have, fumbling through what to say and how to say it, feeling distracted and absent minded and wondering how to “pray without words.” I can tell you what I do, and I feel that I should, but I want to emphasize that it’s not a method! In fact, I’ll tell you what I do because I think it will help keep it FROM becoming a method (I can just picture in my mind someone humming a song to God and trying with everything in them to focus on a certain feeling or person who needs prayer, or hum a particular tune, or make up a song that sounds “just right.” It’s what I probably would have done a few years ago if someone had suggested praying with song to me!) In light of that, and in hopes of keeping it from becoming a “work,” I will tell you what I do: Before I play (or in today’s case, hum!), I simply tell God (usually silently) that I’m playing for Him. As I play, I’ll either be thinking of things I’m thankful for or thinking of people around me who I know need His help in some way and I ask God to consider my song a prayer on their behalf, and to minister to them through it. And that’s it! Sometimes only one person comes to mind, sometimes several people. Sometimes I’ll spend 15 minutes or so playing the same four notes over and over again, sometimes I’m constantly hitting a different note. Sometimes there is a feel throughout the song, sometimes it will jump from a Gaelic kind of melody to a middle eastern chanting sound to a country western tune. Sometimes I spend a long time playing for one person, other times names and faces come to mind in quick succession. Sometimes I’ll play for thirty minutes at a time, sometimes I’ll play for just a few. I don’t try to control it, I don’t try to manufacture it, I just ask God to dedicate what I’m doing to His purposes. And I think He does.
I hope, if you have trouble praying – or even if you don’t! – that you will consider praying without words (I.e. meditation.) Whether through singing or drumming or playing at tune on the piano or heck, get out the spoons! :) I think you just might be surprised at what a wonderful time you can have with God, when you’re focused simply on loving Him.