“Pray without ceasing.” --I Thessalonians 5:17
Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century monk, wrote a book about continual prayer called “Practicing the Presence of God.” Challenged by Brother Lawrence and Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, I have often asked God to help me to be more prayerful throughout the day—to take my praying beyond my daily prayer time in the morning, at bedtime, and before meals. I have often chided myself for my failure to accomplish this attitude of continual prayer. But it occurred to me today that I may be closer to this than I realize.
I’m not fond of the term “earworm” because I think it has a negative connotation and reminds me of a super creepy scene from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (2013), but I’m using it here because it communicates a concept. I frequently—almost daily—have earworms. Earworms are those melodies that get stuck in your head and keep repeating. I have long referred to them as my soundtrack for life. Sometimes there is a whole song, and sometimes just one phrase repeating over and over. Sometimes I recognize the song, and sometimes I have to hunt it down (yay for Google!). These melodies in my mind are so common that I can go hours without paying much attention to them. Sometimes I can even go several days hearing the same song before I realize what I’ve been singing. Frequently once I finally pay attention to the song I will find that the words connect to some concept I’ve been mulling over. When I’m preparing a sermon, the song sometimes turns out to be integral to the sermon’s theme.
I don’t always know how the song got in my brain in the first place. Sometimes I’ll remember that we sang it at church recently, or that it was on the radio or in the soundtrack for a TV commercial. But sometimes the song will be one I haven’t heard in months or even years. Because of this, and because the songs so often connect with what’s going on in my life, I’m certain that the Holy Spirit works in me through these songs, just as he works in me bringing scripture to mind that applies to my current situation. Frequently song and scripture connect because so many hymns and contemporary worship songs are scripture set to music, and I love how these tie together and increase their resonance in me.
Our PC(USA) constitution says that “song is a response which engages the whole self in prayer.” I think this is true, and it’s especially true for me when I’m physically engaged in the song beyond my mouth, lungs and vocal chords by playing the piano or keyboard, or by clapping or raising my hands, tapping my foot, and swaying to the music. On the other hand, when the song is just an earworm, I’m fairly disengaged. And yet the song persists.
What I think I’ve been failing to realize is that through those songs I am walking through the day much more prayerfully than I’d realized. I’m not consciously talking directly to God every moment, but I do sometimes stop and ask him about those songs. And I’ll find myself singing along here and there, sometimes consciously and sometimes absent-mindedly, and those songs are often written as prayers.
Psalm 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” I’ve come to realize that those songs repeatedly running through my mind are part of how God helps me to be aware of his presence. So I wish you “the song that never ends” and a blessed life full of meaningful earworms and the fullness of joy.
 Book of Order W-2.1003
I originally published this blog in April 2013 on a now-defunct worship blog site.