Music has always been a potent force. Trumpets tumbled the walls of Jericho and David’s harp soothed the vexed King Saul. Scripture encourages us to “Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts” (Psalm 105:2).
Music has lost none of its effectiveness since biblical times. Research has shown that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human experience. Scientists are now delving into the possibility of music helping people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimers.
This year, during Lent, why not harness the power of melody as part of your devotional practices? Here are six songs to coincide with each week of this holy season:
Lord, Who Throughout These 40 Days
Claudia Hernaman, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, based her 1873 Lenten hymn on the account of the temptations of Jesus for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13). The song imparts hope that Christ’s victory in the wilderness can be our own.
Will You Come and Follow Me (The Summons)
Lent is a journey that begins by answering the timeless invitation of Christ: “Follow me.” This hymn, composed by Scottish minister John L. Bell in 1987, contains 13 questions asked by Jesus in the first person. The singer answers the call of Christ in the fifth, and last, stanza. Sacred music professor C. Michael Hawn calls The Summons a prophetic Christian hymn because of the radical challenges it poses. The singer is to “leave yourself behind” and to “risk the hostile stare” (stanza two), “set the prisoner free” and “kiss the leper clean” (stanza three), and “use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around” (stanza four).
Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore
Another song of radical discipleship is found in this hymn, written by Spanish priest Cesáreo Gabaráin in 1979. Originally entitled Pescador de Hombres (Fisher of Men), the haunting lyrics invoke the seaside call of Jesus to His first disciples (Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). Lent is a traditional time of “giving something up,” but this hymn reminds us that the Christian sojourn on earth involves a lifetime of surrendering: “Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me/By your side I will seek other seas.”
The Penitential Psalms
Penitence is a major theme during Lent and the Penitential Psalms, or Psalms of Confession, provide a channel to express sorrow for our sins. Here is a Hebrew version of Psalm 130, which begins with the cry, “Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord.”
Take My Life And Let It Be
One of the classic spiritual disciplines of Lent is giving money to charity. Take My Life And Let It Be takes this Lenten practice of almsgiving even deeper – offering mind, body and spirit to the Lord. In 1873, Francis Havergal was visiting a London home, where the family was composed of non-Christians and lukewarm believers. During her extended visit, Frances prayed, “Lord, give me all this house.” Before her stay had ended, the entire household had yielded their lives to Jesus. She based her beloved hymn on this exciting event.
Were You There?
This Negro spiritual, recorded by such artists as Johnny Cash, Paul Robeson and Marion Williams, is a staple of Holy Week services. No one knows who wrote this song, but its simple lyrics have moved generations since it first appeared in print in 1899. This version, sung by the trio Selah, features clips from the 2004 film, Passion of the Christ.