The Power of Song

We really should sing more.

Mochuda went with the swine through the woods of the Maine, and heard Carthagus, the aged bishop, singing his psalms; and Mochuda loved the psalms greatly. And he followed the road behind the clerks, and came to the place where they were, to the monastery called Tuam.

  - Anonymous, Life of Mochuda, Irish, 16th century, from a 9th century ms.[1]

And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.

  - 1 Samuel 16.23

Unlike most other religions, the Christian faith is characterized by joyous, melodious, even exuberant singing. Not that other religions don’t feature singing; yet none of them comes close to comparing with the Christian faith for the variety, beauty, and sheer number of songs believers have produced to celebrate the Lord and His salvation.

Music has great power, and especially when we sing. Perhaps this is why there are so many Biblical injunctions to sing to the Lord.

Augustine wrote about the singing he participated in at Ambrose’s church in Milan, as he prayed to the Lord in his Confessions: “Yet again, when I remember the tears I shed at the Psalmody of Thy Church, in the beginning of my recovered faith; and how at this time I am moved, not with the singing, but with the things sung, when they are sung with a clear voice and modulation most suitable, I acknowledge the great use of this institution.” It was a child’s song that led Augustine to the Word and salvation, and it was the singing of psalms that rooted him in the faith and kept him growing throughout his long life.

Mochuda – who took the name, Carthage, after his bishop – founded the monastery at Rahen, where he ministered forty years before moving to Lismore in the south to found a monastery there. He is one of the great 7th-century solidifiers of the Celtic revival. In the excerpt provided here, we see something of the important role that singing played in his walk with and work for the Lord.

His life bears some similarities to Patrick: He was raised in a Christian environment, but it only touched him tangentially. He worked for a cruel master – his father – watching pigs (not sheep, as in Patrick’s case). He was drawn to follow the Lord for his life’s calling not by a vision in the night, but by the powerful allure of the psalms.

Even as a swineherd, Carthage had come to love the psalms, and something about the distant singing of his bishop captured his soul, impressing him to leave his family and take up the work that would define his life. 

Like Augustine, whose wandering soul was quickened and strengthened by the singing of psalms in the church at Milan, Carthage found liberation, direction, calling, and courage in the singing of an old clerk (cleric, or, priest). Paul knew the power of singing to shore up our salvation and strengthen us for the trials of faith. That’s why he led Silas in singing a psalm in the dungeon of that Philippian jail (Acts 16.25).

There is power in song to exalt, embolden, and ennoble the soul. I suppose this is one reason why Saul was so helped by David’s singing; and it explains why song has always had such an important place in the Christian movement. 

Over and over the Scriptures command us to sing to the Lord. One of the evidences of the filling of the Spirit is that we find ourselves singing (Eph. 5.18-21). Singing has power to transform the affections from depression and gloom to exultation and joy. Jesus led His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing what awaited Him there, with a song on His lips (Matt. 26.30).

Singing to the Lord need not be reserved only to our times of corporate worship. We should sing to the Lord during our prayers, as we go about our daily tasks, in our times of silent meditation, and as often as the Spirit puts a hymn or psalm into our minds.

I hope you have discovered the power that singing to the Lord can produce in reviving and strengthening your soul. We provide an excerpt from a psalm with each issue of Crosfigell. I challenge you to take those excerpts and sing them throughout the day. Let the power of singing have its full and proper role in your walk with and work for the Lord.

For who knows how our singing of God’s psalms may affect, not only us, but others who hear us?

Questions for Reflection
1. Do you have a hymn or praise song that you particularly like? Why do you like it? What makes it so special to you?

2. Take this hymn or praise song with you throughout your day, and sing some of it as often as you can. Reflect at the end of the day on the effect of singing like this on your walk with and work for the Lord.

Psalm 47.7, 8 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
God is the King of all the earth!
Sing praise to Him with glorious psalms!
He rules the nations by His worth,
and on His throne receives their alms.

Teach me to sing, Lord, and let the power of singing have its transforming effects in me. 

More power of music

The Ailbe Psalter contains all the psalms set to familiar hymn tunes, so that you can actually make singing the Word of God more a part of your daily life in the Lord. You can order your own copy by clicking here

And if you’d like to see an example of the staying power of Christian song, order a copy of A Mighty Fortress (click here), which examines Luther’s hymn and the powerful ways Bach and Mendelssohn employed it in celebrating the grace and greatness of God.

Please prayerfully consider becoming a supporter of The Fellowship of Ailbe. We ask you to pray; God must lead you to give. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate onlinethrough credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Dr., Essex Junction, VT 05452.

T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe PsalterScripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1]Plummer, p. 283.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore