How Can I Sing to the Lord from My Heart?
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
According to Ephesians 5:18-19, as we are filled with the Spirit, we will, among other things, “sing and make music from [our] heart to the Lord.” What does it mean to sing to the Lord, indeed, to worship God from our hearts?
It’s good to ask this kind of question when we read the word “heart” in Scripture because we tend to associate the heart mainly with emotions. The Greek word translated as heart, kardia, from which we get words like cardiac and cardiograph, had a literal meaning of “heart” as in “the organ that pumps blood.” But kardia was also used to refer to the “center and source of the whole inner life.” This included the emotions, to be sure, but much more as well. In particular, the heart was the place where decisions were made, the center of the will for human beings.
So, when Ephesians urges us to make music from our hearts to the Lord, this is partly an encouragement to allow our emotions to be expressed in worship. Music has unique power to help us feel God’s love and to rejoice in it. Music invites us to share with the Lord our deepest loves, joys, desires, and fears. So, yes, emotions are included in singing from our hearts.
But not just emotions. Singing to the Lord from your heart is also a matter of choice, an act of will. Sometimes, when you gather with God’s people for worship, your feelings will be dull or distracted. You sing wonderful words without wonderful sentiments. You wonder if you need to work up some feelings, to get your emotions in gear. Or maybe you feel guilty because you’re not sensing much love for the Lord. When this happens to you—and it happens to everybody at one time or another—don’t fret. You can still sing to the Lord from your heart. How? By choosing to sing to him. By using your heart to focus on the meaning of the words and sing them to God. Sometimes, this will lead to an inner warming. Sometimes it won’t. But you will still be singing from your heart in the sense intended in Ephesians 5:19.
How can you sing to the Lord from your heart? By choosing to sing to the Lord. By choosing to address him in song. By choosing to focus on him, not yourself. By choosing to pay attention to what you are singing. By remembering that worship is for God. He is our audience, our Lord, our Savior, our loving Father who delights in us and our worship.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When in your experience of worship have you felt powerful feelings? Why? What do you do when your worship lacks emotion? Can you choose to worship the Lord even when you don’t feel like it?
PRAYER: Gracious God, one of the greatest joys of life is feeling strong emotions when I sing to you. I wish I could bottle this experience and bring it out whenever I need it. But I know true worship isn’t like this. It isn’t primarily a matter of me and my feelings. It is for you, focusing on you, offered for your delight. Help me, Lord, to choose to worship you. May I worship you when I’m gathered with other believers and when I’m alone. May I worship you while sitting in traffic or sitting at my desk. May I choose to offer my whole life to you as worship, and in this way to worship from my heart. Amen.
Find New Life
Feeling lost? God invites you to inhabit new life. Wherever you find yourself on the journey, God is always calling us to something even more. The Bible reassures us that God is doing a new thing (Isa. 43:19), and yet we sometimes pass over the new thing in search of the next thing. But what if what God has for you is in the letting go of what you know and what you've already done? To find life, we must first lose it (Matt. 10:39). But what does that mean, really? Join us for this series, Find New Life. Together, let's find our footing. Let's embrace the new thing God has for each of us.