Prayerways: Pray with music

Most people find that their worship in church is enhanced by the music they hear and the hymns they sing. – Canon Alma Servant writes in our Lent Prayerways series.

Music calms the mind and feelings when people are praying, as well as helping them focus on God.

I first began to use music in my prayer time when I lived in a very noisy flat, with sound coming from upstairs and down. So I played religious music, — it blotted out the sounds that distracted me, and also inspired me spiritually and emotionally.

 The most helpful music was the singing of Psalms by the choir of Kings College, Cambridge. As well as being good for my prayers, it lodged in my mind and meant I learned a few psalms, which I always heard sung in my mind.

 At other times, when I had access to my piano, I would play hymns and ‘sing them in my head’ all through the verses. Playing meant that my hands, eyes and mind were all focused on prayer. It killed all distractions. People vary as to what helps them.

 Over the years, as well as choral music where the words can be distinguished, I have found that people like using choral music where the words are not English, or cannot be understood. So Latin masses, elaborate polyphonic music, or Taize chants in different tongues, with many repetitions, can be very inspiring and uplifting.

 Others do not want words at all, because they may already have their words of prayer, in that case, chamber music or keyboard music can be a good choice.

 Some suggested recordings from Alma

The Psalms of David — Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Complete New English Hymnal, Arvo Pärt—Spiegel in Spiegel, J.S. Bach — Organ music played by Wim Van Beek, Hildegard Von Bingen—Vespers from the Abbey, J.S. Bach — Magnificat, Mozart — Clarinet Concerto


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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