Far beyond its use during religious services, music has long been known as a therapeutic tool.
The scriptures note that David, author of many psalms, played songs for King Saul to bring him peace and relief in times of stress and oppression (1 Samuel 16:23).
Meditation through music can clear the mind and help people regain a higher state of awareness.
“Meditation activates many different brain structures and enhances the brain’s overall function,” said Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist and director of research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He’s also the author of “How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain.”
“Research shows that meditation practices help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression,” he added. “They also help reduce heart rate and blood pressure, putting the body in a more healthful, relaxed state, and there is even evidence that meditation improves the immune system function.”
Less stress and improved focus is something we all seek — and faith is a key way in which it is found. It is through a deep and more grounded belief in God that we attain a more constant source of peace, grounded not only in practice but in principle.
In many church services, hymns, songs, and other worship music is a key element, and this goes far beyond entertainment. As a source of communicating with God and as a tool of faith, the music during our worship services has transcendent powers. It can offer a spiritual mindfulness that increases our quality of life and the depth of our faith.
“If you start reading the Psalms you will read the word ‘meditate’ for the first time in the second verse,” said Jordan Rippy, worship leader at Access Church in Lakeland, Florida. “If you continue through the book, you read countless references to meditating on the Lord’s goodness, His commands, and His faithfulness. These words were written by David — the same David who played for a tormented King Saul only to see his anguish release its grip.”
He added, “As modern worshipers, it’s important that we don’t forget the power of meditating in worship. Not only should we specifically set aside time to meditate on the word, goodness, and faithfulness of the Lord, but we should also be careful to sing songs with lyrics worthy of meditation so that we can move beyond just singing them and into meditating on their themes.”
Here are some key elements of the meditative power of worship music:
1.) It helps our focus.
The practice of singing worship music doesn’t only clear our thoughts, but brings our minds into focus. It has the physiological ability to draw our attention back to the realities of our faith when we are feeling scattered and out of sorts.
2.) It impacts the nervous system.
In a stressed-out society, it’s difficult for us to experience true rest and feelings of calmness on a regular basis. Studies show that meditation directly impacts the autonomic nervous system, which influences our mental and physical well-being.
3.) It’s exercise for the brain.
“If you exercise by lifting weights, your muscles become thicker and function more effectively,” said Newberg of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “Similarly, if you meditate, the brain actually becomes thicker and appears to function more effectively.”
Though it may not always feel like it — our brains are hardwired for faith. We need to activate our faith in order to strengthen it.
4.) It helps create a sense of self.
Through meditative worship, activity involved in the parietal lobe — located in the back of the brain — decreases, allowing us to experience a deep sense of oneness and unity with God. The experience is spiritual and physiological. Simultaneously, emotional areas of the brain are activated and increase powerful emotions of love or joy.
Dr. Newberg noted that “the use of songs, drumming, and other rhythmic activity all activate the brain in powerful ways. The rhythms of these activities can turn on core areas of the brain that ultimately activate the higher areas of the brain.”
Through song, through worship, through prayer — people of faith engage with God in a deeply meaningful and uplifting way.
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