When I was growing up there was a popular phrase ‘Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it’. People used it to promote something they enjoyed and you weren’t willing to try.
One of my favorite things to do as a girl was to sing. Especially when there was nothing else to do. Like driving 600+ miles to North Carolina every summer.
I’m sure it annoyed everyone else in the car, but I would take an Inspiration songbook along and work my way through it. I’m sure the times I sang only the alto part were especially enjoyable for everyone else.
As a pre-teen I challenged myself to sing louder than the riding mower I was on all summer, and without vocal lessons learned to breathe deeply using my diaphragm.
I imagined even the truckers I’d signal to blow their horns could hear my Top 40 set list.
I actually think it was God’s plan from the start.
My initial motivation was entirely self-focused – how can I hear my beautiful voice singing my favorite songs while mowing the grass? The results allowed me to become a good swimmer, a performer who could belt out my part with no need of amplification, and an asthmatic who can force air in and out pretty capably during an attack.
My kids don’t like that my “normal” speaking voice is also projected and loud.
So fast forward to this season of life when all of a sudden our interactions with other people have constraints we wouldn’t have dreamed would happen a year ago.
Churches stopped having in-person services right away, but quickly regrouped to offer online versions. In watching several different churches I found a variety of ways the different elements were handled.
Worship teams performed to empty chairs, or from homes, pastors likewise spoke from pulpits or offices or home settings.
Missing were lengthy announcements, taking up an offering, transitions. And any hurry to get there. I could watch it anytime online.
But what I have really missed is worshiping while singing with other followers of Jesus Christ.
Of course, that CAN happen in a home. If yours is like mine, though, you may have some eager singers (me! me!), and others who aren’t comfortable singing without lots of other voices to make them less noticeable.
I sing, alone or with others, every time I drive a vehicle and crank up YES-FM, but it’s not the same as being with a bunch of other people all praising God. Psalm 22:3 tells us God inhabits the praises of his people, and it really is a supernatural experience to be part of lifting those praises, as loud and strong as I can!
So it was with great anticipation that I returned to Celebrate Recovery in person a few Fridays ago, eager to raise my voice with my forever family, grateful for our continuing freedom and healing from whatever has been holding us down.
The only thing is, masks were required.
My immediate thought was, how can I sing with a mask on? Not happening.
I mean, I have asthma already, so normal singing sometimes takes it out of me. Add sucking in air through cloth? It didn’t sound even possible.
But I was desperate to join with others in thanking and glorifying God.
So I decided to heed that old advice and reserve my judgment until I had given it a fair shot.
Let me say, it was not pretty. (One good thing about social distancing!) Imagine the vocal equivalent of running a race, the wet, labored, tiny bit lightheaded, mask in need of a good washing panting that went on for those brief 10 minutes or so.
But man, was it joyful!
I found, incredibly, that it was not only possible, but that it didn’t reduce my ability to project my voice in any way. In fact, after a few weeks, I have felt a new dimension in my vocal chords and breathing that so far in my 59 years I had not explored.
(Like how I worked that in? I just had a birthday, and the only time I know for sure how old I am is around that day. And even then I have to subtract my birth year to be sure!)
When I first started exploring the idea of intercessory prayer the feelings were a lot like singing for the first time with a mask on.
How do I do this? What if I do it wrong? Will it come out sounding muffled and incoherent or will it be understandable?
While there are lots of passages that encourage us to pray for each other, there isn’t a clearly defined method to follow. One thing is certain. If I never give it a try I’ll never figure it out.
I don’t know about you, but I like to know what I’m doing. I like to read about it, study up, follow the instructions at least the first time out until I get the hang of something.
But some things are mysteries, especially when it comes to following Jesus. Like fasting. I’ve never seriously done it because I always think I need to study it. Then when I come across a “How to do a Biblical Fast” kind of article, it doesn’t hold my attention. (They’re so long! I need 5 bullet points and go!) I don’t know what I’m missing, because I talk myself out of trying.
In this case, I’ve felt the benefits of other people praying for me, more times than I will ever know in this world. And I’ve had people inspired to pray for me by God, and then come and tell me something God had given them to pass on to me.
That has been one of the most humbling things I’ve ever experienced, God speaking to me through someone else.
But that was only after another person took the time to pray for me.
Now, I’m not a person who seeks emotional or thrilling experiences as proof of God working in my life. But I also would not mind being in what I imagine to be a deep closeness in my prayer life that would invite God to speak to me for other people’s benefit.
I got to a point where I decided it didn’t matter if I did it wrong. God knows my heart. And it didn’t matter if I mumbled and spoke with disconnected thoughts, the Spirit can make sense of even moans and groans.
So I started taking advantage of any old time someone would pop into my mind to say, ‘Ok, God, how can I pray for this person right now?’
At first I’d think, how can I pray blindly, not knowing what they need.
Praying with a mask on.
And thoughts that are not my thoughts will come into my head, and I take the personality and imagination that God put in me to lift that person in my mind, to sit down next to Jesus (sometimes I dare to climb up into his lap), and have a conversation with the only one who can truly do anything worthwhile and everlasting for any of us.
I love the way God can calm my thoughts, and help me focus on just one other person for a while. I love being given just a word, or maybe a feeling, to help me identify what I should be praying for, but even without any prompts there are things I can always know, that I can ask God to do for any person on this earth.
To let them feel his love, to draw them to himself, to create in them a desire to know him, and many other things that pop into my head that I’ve read over and over and now get a chance to speak back to him.
Maybe you think I’m wasting my time, or deluded. Or maybe this is one of those things you’ve heard of, like the idea of, but never knew how to do.
So may I suggest just doing it? Right now. Ask God who you should pray for. And whoever comes to mind (yourself included!) ask if there’s anything in particular.
Who knows what will happen next?
But one thing I can tell you.
Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.