Anxiety can hit us during church in surprising ways. Often, it’s embarrassing to admit to others that you feel less than adequate to do something like reading the Scripture out loud when called upon or pray in your small group meet up. If you are like me, you may feel small or even nonspiritual at a prayer meeting when you hear eloquence and passion from many of the experienced saints in the room. Their prayers seem to soar. When a verse needs to be found, they find it before the rest of us. All the right words seem to be in their vocabulary. Your turn to pray comes up, and panic almost overwhelms some of us. Prayer is not a skill in public speaking. These types of experiences leave us to fend for ourselves. There is a better way. On the one hand, it is perfectly fine to prepare prayers! This has been done through the 2,000 years of Church history, and the Lord’s Prayer is always a place to start. There are times, even for those of us who are well-practiced in prayer, that we lose our way and have no idea what to pray. What if there were practical ways to employ music and song in prayer? What if these methods could possibly be gateways to a deeper listening and longing for God’s voice to reach the deepest part of who were are? I suggest that this exploration is both a biblical and historical activity that we can confidently find patterns in. And, it should make perfect logical sense–at least in the results we see.

Why use worship songs for prayer? What if I told you that in Scripture and history, singing and prayer weren’t seen as different activities? Yes, you can pray without music involved at all. But, singing and prayer often are the same thing. This is why our corporate worship is so important. We offer the prayer together with our songs both in the models of Old Testament worship as well as the New Testament Church. King David organized musicians and militarily developed throngs of them. The Apostle Paul mentions singing and praying in the same breath to explain that prayer is both with our minds as well as with our hearts—in the Spirit. We see songs described as both direct prayers to God, but also ones that admonish each other to love God and our neighbors ever more. It is not an accident that music is a vital part of our faith. But, the music is not magic. It is simply a beautifully expressed language from our souls that vibrates from the air that we breathe in. We breathe out our prayers.

Without getting too much into the theology and practice of prayer, we must at least find common ground to define prayer. Prayer is simply our way of both talking and listening to God. It is a two-way street with prayer. In the example of the Lord’s Prayer, we see that we ask God for both physical and emotional issues–our daily bread–as well as dealing with the human temptation to our souls, which need to be in right relationship with both God and our community. I propose that prayer has three perspectives that we find clearly in the First and Second Commandment. We love God above all others as the First Commandment. We then love our neighbors as ourselves when we live up to the Second Commandment. The third perspective is implied in the Second Command as well as the First. Our right relationship with God and others is part of the plea we make in prayer when we pray that we might forgive others as God has forgiven us. These three perspectives–God, each other, and ourselves–are a hub for prayers we see in the Scripture and fit our human need for peace in our souls. Peace in our souls is not a monkish goal, however. It requires that we know that the First and Second Commandments are tied together. Jesus teaches us this idea when he says that if we serve the “least of these”, we also love Him.

Prayer’s first point acknowledges what God says, promises, or displays. We can pray about how great God is and loves by knowledge, both from our reading of Scripture as well as our personal experiences with God’s direct provision and intervention on our behalf. The second perspective is our relationship with others. We pray for our government, our family, and anyone who is our neighbor. This is why, in the Lord’s Prayer, we also pray to forgive the debts or sins of others. Our right relationship with God–which is based on his gift to us–allows us to offer the same grace to others. How we relate to each other is critical in the subject matter of prayer. The last and third perspective of prayer has to do with our inner soul and physical needs. How is our conscience? What is the condition of our soul? Are we in danger or experiencing sickness? The example of the Psalms, the greatest prayer book of Scripture, shows us all three. We hear the psalmist ask, “Why so downcast, Oh my soul?” Or, “O Lord, You are a shield about me,” can be sung to declare the promise of God’s protection. Being oppressed might be the reason we pray today, but in that prayer, we can learn to have all three perspectives. Maybe there doesn’t need to be an exact order, but in our public worship and private devotion, it seems best to employ all three.

Now that we have provided a summary of the three perspectives of prayer, we can explore how to express our prayers, practically. Music is a language that ties in intellectual thoughts with lyrics, a physical sensation with the vibration of sound, and the emotional or spiritual feeling of mystic contemplation. We are transported, but not disembodied, with music. Our thoughts make sense, but our hearts engage as our bodies sing or even listen to the patterns of sounds. Those organized notes and rhythms help us define appropriate moods for a prayer. If we are confessing, it most likely is accompanied by music that opens up and soothes. Dealing with the pain of our failings calls for something that soothes. If we are exalting the greatness of God, then the loud and powerful beats and tones fit well. There are few things more annoying than music that does not match the lyric. A love song about a loss that is comical in tone makes no sense. We make sense of our whole humanity when music and thought are in sync. This is how we are to pray. Here is what the Apostle Paul says:

What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15)

Here Are The Top 10 Prayer Songs For Powerful Worship

The following list is a subject list. We must engage our mind in prayer. This list gathers movements of prayer we do both in public worship as well as in our daily devotional life. The next time we are in a small group Bible study and are called on to pray, the secret to success is to have a clear subject matter. Are we to pray for each other? Are we expressing our thanks for what God has done in our group? Is it a time to lift up the greatness of God? Any of these gives us that anchor to offer a prayer that comes from the mind and the soul. The Spirit-filled prayer is not just what feels easy to come out. There are times for mysticism in our faith, but most of us will find that through the vehicle of structured prayers. This is why Paul made his statement to the Corinthians. They let things get a bit out of hand. Written out prayers can be as Spirit-filled as extemporaneous prayers! Music allows a time frame, a mood, and a subject. These enable prayers to be full and rich instead of shallow and repetitive. With this category list, we find that there may exist an inexhaustible amount of things to pray about.

I admit that I hate rules. The goal here is not to make a new rule, but to free you up in the practice of prayer. Some of us already know many songs. What if the songs we know or learn can be purposeful prayer vehicles for us? Us these ten items to jump off and dive into the joy of praying your heart and mind to God! Soon, you will no longer care how you pray in that public setting in front of others. You will know the sound of a prayer and your soul will be better practiced in expressing deeper longings. More importantly, you and I may then have the space to hear from God more clearly in our daily lives.

The practical side of this activity is to use the YouTube link and lyrics and simply repeat and listen. I apologize in advance for the forced ads that run at the beginning of the YouTube videos. You can make a playlist of your favorite apps, such as Apple Music or Spotify. You may know completely different tunes that express these thoughts even better–which is perfectly fine. These happen to be ones that I have an affinity towards and are a good place to start. I suggest you keep a brief journal to log your prayers. Has God revealed something to you? Do you feel freer or more distressed? Did you feel anything at all? There are no rules in this! The point is to practice praying. My prayer is that you would be closer to God and his gracious peace.

 

To Declare Exaltation

To exalt God is to glorify him. Merriam-Webster says that it is “to elevate by praise or in estimation.” Do we pray in a way that clearly lifts up the character of God?

You would think it would be easy to find songs of exaltation, but that is not the case. Most of our songs are more about our response than the character traits of God. This tune by Christy Nockels, “A Mighty Fortress” is a shout out to Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and is a moving anthem in its own right. It is worth digging to find the songs that simply declare God. When our response is difficult to offer, we can always sing and lift up our God.

Our God is a consuming fire
A burning holy Flame, with glory and freedom
Our God is, the only righteous judge
Ruling over us with kindness and wisdom
We will keep our eyes on You
We will keep our eyes on You

A mighty fortress is our God
A sacred refuge is Your Name
Your Kingdom is unshakable
With You forever we will reign

 

Christy Nockels / Nathan Nockels © 2009 Christy Nockels Publishing Designee (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)


 

To Express Adoration

To adore God is to put our devotion to him first. But, the Merriam-Webster says it is, “to regard with loving admiration …” as well. Do we focus on God in our prayers in a way that admires who he is?

The group All Sons & Daughters sing “Great Are You Lord” as a powerful response to the greatness of God. He is our very breath, and with that breath, we offer our praise! This song offers a passionate prayer of adoration.

You give life You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope You restore ev’ry heart that is broken
And great are You Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

 

Written by Leslie Jordan / David Leonard / Jason Ingram © 2013 Integrity’s Praise! Music/BMI & Integrity’s Alleluia! Music & Sony/ATV Timber Publishing/West Main Music/Winsor Hill Music


 

To Offer Thanksgiving

To give thanks is to give, “an expression of gratitude.” We have to understand with our minds what God has done for us. In our prayers, do we express gratitude in an honest way and for things we obviously are grateful for?

Based on Psalm 100:4, this song by Bryan and Katie Torwalt is a rousing prayer of gratitude. It is perfectly fine to tap your toes or even dance when you pray. Go for it.

My eyes on Your faithfulness
O God let me not forget to sing in the valley
To look toward Your goodness
My heart set on who You are
You’re the light that consumes the dark
The joy and the strength to lift up my hands and sing

I enter the gates with nothing but thanks
I want to magnify Your worth
I want to bring You more than words
I enter the gates, come reckless with praise
I’ll bring a heart that wants You first
All for Your glory

Bryan Torwalt / Jonathan Smith / Katie Torwalt / Mia Fieldes © 2016 Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Jesus Culture Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Jesus Culture Music Group (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Not Just Another Song Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) So Essential Tunes (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC) Upside Down Under (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)


 

To Confess Sin and Sonship

In the case of our faith, to confess is “to acknowledge” before God both our condition or acts of sin as well as the fact of our promised inheritance as his child. Confession acknowledges, as God already knows all, right? How do we recognize both sin and sonship in our prayers?

One modern worship song out there that confesses in this way is “Lord, I Need You”–performed by Matt Maher. In the ancient liturgy, the Kyrie is merely a confession of our need for God. Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

 

Written by Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson / Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher
Lord, I Need You lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group


 

To Forgive Each Other

We pray, “to give up resentment of or claim to requital.” This is different than a simple debt, but the idea of debt is a perfect metaphor for both our need for God’s forgiveness and the constant need to regain ground in our relationships with each other. In our prayers, how do we give up the right to have negative feelings toward an offense?

I love how The Brilliance wrote a song about how to love our enemies. In our world today, we often face polarized situations—even among our dear family members. Are we able to see our enemy as our brother or sister?

When I look in the face of my enemy
I see my brother, I see my brother

Forgiveness is the garment of our courage
the power to make the peace we long to know
Open up our eyes, to see the wounds that bind all of humankind
May our shutter hearts greet the dawn of life with charity and love
When I look in the face of my enemy
I see my brother, I see my brother

 

Written by David Gungor / Ian Cron / John Arndt © 2014 Brownie Hawkeye Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook])) Integrity Worship Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook])) Integrity’s Praise! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook])) The Brilliance and The Flyer (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music [DC Cook]))


 

For Guidance for the Church, Leaders, and Nation

We pray for our leaders and nation to acknowledge the Sovereignty of God. How do we pray in a way that clearly admits that God is in control when things seem to be out of control? We are here to help build God’s kingdom.

The Rend Collective’s tune “Build Your Kingdom Here” pleads God to help us as his people build his kingdom here on earth. Our mission is not finished. This rousing prayer reflects a passion for living the gospel to a darkened world.

Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here we pray

Written by Rend Collective Experiment @ 2011 Thankyou Music (Adm. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)


 

For Greater Justice

To pray for the oppressed. There are people enslaved today, even in our very wealthy nation. How do we include conversations, thoughts and pleas in our prayers for the “least of these” in our world?

We are called to live a life of action and go to the world, starting with our neighbor. This song, written by Tim Hughes, prays for us to come together, not simply for our worship time, but to be sent to serve!

Jesus You have called us
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go
Live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward
Keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

 

Written by Tim Hughes © 2004 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)


 

For Healing

Besides asking for the disease to be conquered, prayer for healing is also a prayer “to restore to original purity or integrity.” How do we put in our prayers the bold request for a return to purity, wholeness, as well as physical wellness?

The people at Jesus Culture wrote the song “God Is With Us”, a moving track to ask for God’s supernatural intervention.

You’re the healer of the sick and the broken
You are comfort for ev’ry heart that mourns
Our King and our Savior forever
For eternity we will sing of all You’ve done
For eternity we will sing of all You’ve done

(We sing) God with us God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us
God with us God for us
Nothing can come against
No one can stand between us

Bryan Torwalt / Katie Torwalt © 2015 Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Jesus Culture Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Jesus Culture Music Group (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)


 

For Our Help and Comfort

We ask for God to intervene in our grief and pain is a noble prayer. In our culture, we deny lamenting and to grieve is considered a foreign activity we avoid at all costs. How do we balance in our prayers the expression of our pain with the invitation for God to be with us in them? Why are we afraid of silence in our worship?

The song “Restless” by the worship leader and songwriter Audrey Assad, powerfully quotes a prayer of St. Augustine. We look to many things to avoid pain when we have the “keeper of our hearts” available to us. When we pray, we can rest in Christ. As St. Augustine said centuries ago, “I’m restless until I rest in You.” Rest can come from no other than Christ himself. Sometimes, silence is needed in our prayer and worship. Are we willing to rest in that silence?

 

You dwell in the songs that we are singing
Rising to the heavens
Rising to Your heart Your heart
Our praises filling up the spaces
In between our frailty
And everything You are
You are
The keeper of my heart
And I’m restless, I’m restless
till I rest in You
till I rest in You
I am restless, I’m restless
till I rest in You till I rest in You

 

© 2010 River Oaks Music Company, Matt Maher Designee, and Thankyou MusicPublishing)


 

To Refocus My Affections/Thoughts

In our prayers, we often need to quiet our souls and reclaim our thoughts. Prayer is both a battle of the mind and affections. Prayer is about putting our attention on our savior. How do we pray in a way that takes us from looking only at ourselves and not at the amazing gifts God wants to give us each day?

When we focus on the goodness of God, we regain ground in our souls. This song, “Good, Good Father” keeps our attention where it belongs. There is so much about God that is good, but the idea that we are his and that he loves us is probably the most fantastic thought.

I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

 

Anthony Brown / Pat Barrett © 2014 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Common Hymnal Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Housefires Sounds (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Tony Brown Publishing Designee (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Vamos Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)


 

Final Thoughts

As you pray through song, make it a habit. You can be in the car in traffic. Imagine how much safer the roads might be if more of us church people take that time while in the car to express prayers. The more you become adept at using these written prayers, you may want to write your own! Repetition is a good thing. God does not need to hear things repeated to answer them. We need repetition to remember God is the one we are pleading with. Praying doesn’t change God, but it does change us!

About The Author

Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich is a writer, blogger, speaker, musician, father and husband to his best friend. You can check out his latest book, The Six Hats of the Worship Leader, on his website, RKblog.com

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