Holy Spirit, hear us

from the website of the Church of Christ in Kenya hallelujah.co.ke

Today’s hymn from Sing Praise is “Holy Spirit, hear us” by William Henry Parker. In the five verses we ask the Spirit, in different ways, to help us in our walk with God: singing, praying, Bible reading, living graciously, and making ethical choices.  I’m going to concentrate on the first one. 

First, then, is singing: “breathe into the music of the praise we bring”. Singing in church isn’t a performance or a competition, but a way of applying the natural human instinct for music to our praise of God.  Spoken words, however worthy and appropriate, don’t have anything like the impact on ourselves or other people that song does. That’s why many of us have found worship during Covid restrictions so difficult when we’re not allowed to express our praise in song.

Whether struggling to learn the tune of a new song, or reciting a very familiar one ‘by rote’, it’s all too easy to fail to notice the meaning of the words.  By this invocation of the Spirit, we are asking that the words of familiar songs may strike us afresh, and in new ones reveal the depths of their meaning.

By asking the Spirit into our singing, we are also asking that we may express our true feelings in the way we sing, and be open to being moved into new ways of expression.  If you are open to the Spirit, you might find yourself improvising a harmony or breaking into song during the prayer time.  Depending on your church culture, it might or might not be the ‘done thing’.  I remember on one occasion, at my mother’s fairly traditional church, as I walked in silence back to our pew after taking communion, I felt the urge to sing the chorus “I am a new creation”.  I didn’t, and I don’t know what people’s reaction would have been, but sometimes I wish I had done what the Spirit prompted.

1 thought on “Holy Spirit, hear us”

  1. A very simple straightforward hymn, with a very important message: that as well as enumerating various theoretical things that the Holy Spirit does for us (if we let him), it is also vitally important for us to move from theory to practice, and ask the Holy Spirit to do those things for us personally.

    I was most interested in Stephen’s writing on the first of these: “breathe into the music of the praise we bring”. I have been a classical musician for longer than I’ve been a Christian, and when I was first “converted” (at university) I found the whole business of music very difficult: I was used to playing in the orchestra at concerts and concentrating on getting the notes, pitch, dynamic, phrasing, timing and delivery all exactly right so that my sound would contribute properly to the whole – whether in choir or orchestra, delivery is key, and inner appreciation of the meaning of the whole and its personal application was a distracting extra. When I was asked to play in an orchestra of Christian musicians at a Christmas Carol service, I (on that occasion) got nothing spiritual out of any of the carols at all (how could I, since a trombone cannot articulate words?). It took me a long while to be able to return to music as a part of Christian worship.

    But I did come through to what Stephen describes, where music is an amplification and affirmation of the truths about which one is singing.

    I think I’d like to add one other thing to his words, though. The Spirit is present in the composition of the hymn, and in the rehearsing of it as well. Let the hymn not be derided as “unspiritual” simply because the inspiration for it didn’t all just come this very minute.

    If Stephen is to break into song spontaneously with “I am a new creation” as he walks back down the aisle, let the church musicians around him take it up with gusto and sing and play it with enthusiasm as well as skill – let it find the right key and involve all the instrumentalists, and let the others return to their pews in dancing and clapping rather than in quiet apologetics. (And let the video man post it up on YouTube too!)

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