I thought about fitting this into one of the pet peeve discussions, but I'd like a little more feedback on it. To be frank, I don't like it.
On the one hand, it's personal preference. I'm fairly ADD and when someone is playing, I start thinking about the sound of the instrument, any mistakes made, what chords are being played (especially if it's guitar and it's something I might learn) and maybe even getting into the song. It's nearly hopeless for me to pray while a "performance" is going on.
On the other hand, it seems like an emotional manipulation to me. Yeah, I hear the stuff about setting a mood or creating an atmosphere of worship, but how is that not merely stirring up emotions that can masquerade as a spiritual connection? Can't God speak to us with out a musical conduit?
There have been times when I've been listening to a song and feel like God was saying something to me through it. It was often followed by a rush of emotion at the thought of the Eternal Father, Creator of the Universe addressing me and my current situation. But I think we should not create conditions that encourage purely emotional reactions which distract from interaction with God.
My opinion and I realize that there are many who completely disagree with me. I'll state right now that they're opinion is just as valid as mine. Maybe one of you can shed some light on this that will be beneficial to me. BTW, if this topic has been discussed before, please direct me to that one.
Your opinion is valid Scott..... I think it's a personal preference to have music playing while you pray. I personally like it but dont need it to have goog praying time and connection with God. It's like I usually play good moving christian music while I clean house.... I clean and I worship all at once but if I play slow music while I clean then I end up in the middle of my living room singing and worshipping and get no cleaning done !.. If you dont care to have music playing while you pray then that's ok too.... Be Blessed !!
It doesn't bother me as long as it is a low volume and something that is musically subdued. I can do without it though. There have been a few times when I've been asked by a pastor or other church leader to play while they pray. In those cases, it's a question of submission to authority - and so I play something quiet and mellow. There was only one time when someone was gesticulating (angrily?) at me, I suppose to "encourage" me to play something more vigorous.
Can't God speak to us with out a musical conduit? You bet He can, but sometimes He uses music to help it along. Sometimes I've played quietly while I or someone else prays; most times I don't. If I were to really look at it objectively, I would have to agree that it's easy for the music to become a distraction (for me, anyway). But for some people, it really helps them feel at peace.
So I would say that it's like anything else - use it in moderation.
BTW, did anyone go to the National Worship Leader Conference in Austin last July? Bishop Joseph Garlington was there, and whenever he preaches, he has his pianist play in the background - for the whole sermon! Sometimes he even creates a song on the run. Give a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__BUitBKtg4
This was really different for me, but I also found myself inspired by it. Don't know what I'd feel like if it happened every Sunday though...:)
I loved the worship/teaching of Bishop Garlington at last year's NWLC and the pianist was an integral part of how Bishop Garlingon's message was preached. They are a team (even though I don't know the pianist's name and that is a SHAME!) and most of us are not that closely aligned with what our preacher/teacher is going to say or pray - at least I know I'm not. I think supporting prayer and preaching with instrumental music needs to be done with sensitivity to the appropriateness of the moment and should be very simple.
"I start thinking about the sound of the instrument" - so the sound people have to fix that
"...any mistakes made" - so the musicians shouldn't make any mistakes! Just play simple chords, if they can't do that they shouldn't be up there in the first place.
"what chords are being played" - if they choose something simple and repetitive that will cease to be a distraction for you after the 3rd or 4th time through and you realize they're gonna keep at it.
"... and maybe even getting into the song." - that's why they should not play songs, just chords.
"It's nearly hopeless for me to pray while a "performance" is going on." - that's why musicians have to learn that praying time or musically supporting prophecy or free worship is NOT time for them to launch off into their latest greatest favourite riff deciphered from some avant-guarde post-modernist free-form bebop CD. Don't perform, just blend into the background. (think invisible!)
We use music for prayer times usually at the end of service as altar time or when we have a service dedicated to just prayer. We have done both live music and CD's. Usually it will only be the keyboard during altar time which is kept at a low enough volume as to not be a distraction. If we use the CD's they are instrumentals and played at a low level so as not to be distracting. Sometimes we just do without the music during altar times and this works well too.
There are times when it is appropriate and times when it is not. It can be useful when some are being prayed for to help the rest of the congregation stay focused and not start chattering. It should never be use to influence or manipulate, but can enhance some times to take the edge of silences where something might be happening and not everyone is involved e.g. times of ministry.
My pastor recently asked me to consider recording a CD of music to play during soaking times and when there's ministry going on. That's an interesting challenge, to come up with something that would work in many situations and not get in the way. Still thinking about it... :)
If the prayers are prewritten and handed down you can create a musical setting and chant the prayer. Provided the arrangement is apropos (not too ornate) it will serve to bind the music and prayer together in the mind of the listener, making it memorable and effective. It helps if the reader has a good voice, but it isn't necessary. If it is a simple enough arrangement even someone who is mostly tone-deaf can intone it enough.
There are a near infinite variety of traditional prayers (old hymns were indistinct from prayers) if you know the right place to look. I will offer a few examples, and suggest that authentic prayer is within and not external (as we learn from the parable of the Publican and Pharisee) and a thing of the heart, for as David says 'a broken and contrite heart you will not despise) (ps. 51) thus whether the prayer's audible words are spontaneous or written (for those of us not talented at poetry pre-written prayers are a great boon) the real prayer is within. No Christian would argue that the Lord's Prayer is somehow inauthentic; but that it is the state in which it is prayed and the intent which determines whether it is prayed rightly. This applies then, to not only the Lord's Prayer but to any prayer.
'O Heavenly King' - Orthodox prayer to the Holy Spirit
"O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth; who art in all places and fillest all things, treasury of good things and giver of life, come abide in us and cleanse us from every stain and save our souls, O gracious Lord."
That's 'tone 6' (there are 8 tones in the Orthodox tradition, which represent different common musical settings in different traditions.) The key is that the tones are common, and when one has sung enough chant they become natural. Thus at some point the congregation becomes able to follow along because the know the tone, even if they are not familiar with the actual written music.
Note that the translation is slightly different in that arrangement (the original is Greek) but that is fine, words like 'O' can be added or omitted, and expressions of the ever-presence of the Spirit vary. The key with that is that within the congregation the same words are always used.
Such a prayer disables our tendency towards emotionalism, and perhaps if we can quiet ourselves we can detect the more subtle things that God is telling us, and set aside the turbulence of our heart and the ferocity of our ego. Lord have mercy on us.
Take note that the beauty of the setting is important. It is secondary to the words, but it is no easy task making beautiful things. Thus practicing and repeating the same prayer is baptized; it no longer is used as an incantation as the pagans would do but is practiced to refine the discipline of the singers and to teach the listeners to pray more effectively with words handed down to us from the ages. The psalms, as we are all aware, are of great effect as well and are scattered through all Orthodox services. I believe the Roman Catholics do this as well, but I am not as familiar with their Offices as I am with Orthodox services.
May he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks be gracious unto us.
Also, I think I didn't mention this, but it is a capella. Sometimes the Greeks will use an organ as backup, but I disfavor it personally. Most choir singers can do a capella but don't realise it. Everyone else will follow along if they are musically inclined.