Lex orandi, lex credendi

Usually in a community meeting, we’ll sing two or three songs. Yesterday we sang five. No one had a problem with this, least of all me, and Patrick did a great job of leading everyone as usual.

The last song we sang was Noel Richards’ “To Be in Your Presence”. Even though this song borders on ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ material, I don’t have any real issues with it. I almost consider it more of a prayer than a song, which is nice.

Once we’d finished singing it yesterday, however, I felt so dishonest that I wanted to take a shower. And I probably would’ve done, had I not been working a late shift in the kitchen.

See, that song was putting words in my mouth – words I wasn’t fully sure I meant. I was telling God that it was my desire to be in His presence and let His peace saturate me. But is that true? As a human being, sinful and imperfect, I’m predisposed to desire things other than God – things I know will make me happy.

So to sing a song like that, and then go away and give the opposite message with my actions, felt utterly wrong to me. I was lying to the Creator of everything, who knows all and has a monopoly on truth, and it left me feeling filthy. Maybe not everyone else in the room saw it that way, but I did.

This got me thinking once again about the songs we sing, and the messages we give in doing so. They are supposed to be reflections of what we believe, but if not everyone is in a place where they feel they do believe what the song is saying, then we’ve got a problem. I can’t just close my eyes and sing about how great our God is on days when I’m not even sure He exists. I can’t sing about how there’s no place I’d rather be than in Jesus’ arms of love, when deep down I know that not to be true.

The title of this post is a Latin phrase that roughly translates to ‘we believe what we pray’. I’d argue it actually works both ways; our beliefs are influenced by the words we use, just as the words we use are influenced by what we believe. Ideally, we wouldn’t sing anything that doesn’t honestly reflect where people are at spiritually. It may be true that we can get our beliefs back on track by singing songs that contain sound doctrine and proclaim the greatness of God, but I don’t think it helps our worshippers if they can’t relate to what’s being sung. We need to let them bring their own sincere thoughts, feelings and questions before God, whether or not we share them ourselves.

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