Breath Prayers for You

These are short, simple prayers prayed in sync with your breaths. It only takes a minute and can help to calm anxieties or focusing your spirit before starting work on a task.

An Example

Take “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Have mercy on me.”

(breathing in) Lamb of God…
(breathing out) who takes away…
(breathing in) the sins of the world,
(breathing out) have mercy on me.

Focus

Take slow deep breaths.
On the first two recitations, focus on the first phrase.
On the next two recitations, focus on the second phrase.
And so on, until you’ve prayed this simple prayer eight times.

Meditate on the phrase you are focusing on. Feel the weight of meaning of the words. What do they mean?
What do they mean to you?

More Breath Prayers

Here are other possible breath prayers from the Bible or you can write your own.

The Lord is my shepherd / I shall not want.
Speak Lord / your servant hears.
Lord Jesus Christ / have mercy on me. (I don’t add “a sinner” as many do because those of us in Christ Jesus are saints now—not sinners. God said so.)
Let the words of my mouth / and the meditation of my heart / be acceptable / in your sight, O Lord

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How I Make the Sign of the Cross

I was raised Roman Catholic and later was baptized into an evangelical faith. This is how I make the sign of the cross so that it’s meaningful to me and not just a superstitious habit.

I put my thumb, first finger, and middle finger together to symbolize the Trinity. I put my ring and pinky finger into my palm to symbolize the dual nature of Jesus (fully God, fully human) coming to earth.

 

Then I touch my forehead (the name of the Father)…
I touch my chest (the Son)…
I touch my left shoulder and right shoulder (the Holy Spirit).
Amen.

Eastern Orthodox church will cross from right to left, instead of left to right. Either way is fine.

I cross myself to remind myself that God watches over me, that his love and grace are upon me. I cross myself to remind myself of the mystery of the Trinity and how all members of the Trinity are involved in my salvation.

Adrenalinn 1 Preset Guide

I don’t know why, but I had the hardest time finding the preset sheet for the first Adrenalinn. I found it eventually and printed it off, but I didn’t save it. Then I needed it again and had to go through the whole search and find process all over again.

I figure I was looking for it, so are other people. Here’s a link to a PDF of the Adrenalinn presets.

Adrenalinn 1 Preset Guide

I know the Adrenalinn has gotten better with each iteration, but I thought the Adrenalinn I was an economical way to start. Plus I could always upgrade it to the Adrenalinn III.

Here’s the link to the upgrade information on Roger Linn’s site.

I’ve used the arpeggiator (the preset John Mayer used for Bigger Than My Body) a few times during worship. I had to reprogram it to work in a different key. I’d like to use it more, but once again I lost the hard copy of the preset guide. Luckily, this time I have it saved.

Songs of Lament for Book of Job Sermons

Graphic used for The Bridge message series face superimposed over praying hands

We just finished message series on the Book of Job at The Bridge that we called Wounded.

I put together a playlist of worship songs that go with suffering and lament. It includes songs meant more for presentation as well as worship songs that work for congregational worship.

I especially like Joy by Page CXVI, Rescue Me by The Brilliance, and The Old Rugged Cross by the incomparable Mahalia Jackson.

What else should be on this playlist?

“What the Story Is” Lyrics

boxer's back

What goes better with a boxing theme than hip hop?

Easter at The Bridge this year had a boxing theme, complete with partial boxing ring and posters.

I wrote a short verse. It was pretty fast and I doubt you could catch all the words, let alone the reference to a fourth century heresy. The track was a quick remix I did of Santa Esmerelda’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.

I’m here to tell you what the story is
Can you tell me who this king of glory is?

Don’t call it a comeback
He’s risen and he’s on the attack
Brought the thunder when the sky turn black
Now I celebrate with the boom-bap
‘Cause he laid flat the power of death with his last breath
It is finished and he paid the price for us
Word became flesh to live with the nefarious
Eternally begotten, don’t listen to Arius
Giving us forgiveness, he gave his life for us
He gave us righteousness
No longer felonious
He reigns glorious
So light it up like phosphorus
If you died with him, rise with him victorious
We’re more than conquerors
So what can conquer us


Photo © El Marto. Some rights reserved.

Responsive Reading: I thirst for you like a parched land

prayer candles

How to Use this MP3 as Worship

Download the mp3 by clicking here.

Listen to Psalm 143:6–12 being read.

When you hear a pause in the reading, you can pray out loud or silently, “I thirst for you like a parched land.” Think of it as a specialized amen.

It’ll be like we’re praying together across time and space. Time and space confounded by prayer, people. Let’s do it.

Are Responsive Readings Biblical?

A responsive reading is like prayer with Scripture with more than one person. It has a call & response feel. In this case the response is “I thirst for you like a parched land,” but it can be just about anything and it can be different each time.

If you’re talking principles, then yes, this is biblical. If you’re wondering if there’s an example in Scripture, the answer is still yes.

The best example might be Psalm 136 where the refrain is explicitly spelled out, “his love endures forever,” (a favorite exclamation of worship for Israel).

About the Music

The music is performed by The Tudor Consort of New Zealand, a choir that specializes in early choral works.

The song is a portion of the “Kyrie Eleison” from Giovanni’s Animuccia’s Missa Victimae Paschali Laudes. You can listen to and download the whole thing for free by clicking here.

Both the music and this mp3 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

How I’m Trying to Reignite My Spiritual Life with Small Fires

prayer candles

This afternoon in my office with the door closed I did something I haven’t done in a long while. I prayed down on my knees—on my knees. Instantly, it made me pause and reflect. And repent.

I’m trying to reignite my spiritual life.

Everything is fine. Nothing is exploding in my life. Family life is good. Ministry is ministering. I’m writing and recording my own music again. Everything is fine.

But there’s no fire. There are glimpses of embers and I think that’s why I’ve taken notice.

So I’m embarking on a spiritual journey. I used to practice a few different spiritual exercises, ancient and traditional as well as ones I created for myself. But it’s been a while since I’ve given more than passing attention to breath and body prayers, lectio divina, memorization, prayer beads, the Divine Office… They were like small fires I’d start to keep the heat on.

As I review different spiritual disciplines and try to re-introduce them into my daily life, I’ve invited others to join me in this.

Photo credit: RachelF2SEA Creative Commons License

Some Worship and Prayer Positions from the Bible

praying mantis

As a worship leader, I almost don’t care what you do with your body during worship. Lift your hands. Bow your head. Sit when everyone is standing. Stand when everyone is sitting. Pump your fist. Sway without any sense of rhythm. It’s just us. I’ll make room for you if you make room for me.

But whatever you do during prayer or worship. Do it on purpose.

Stand For Respect

If we were very formal and maybe wanted to emulate the refined manner of the folks on Downton Abbey, we would stand when a lady enters the room. We would also stand when our professor walked into the classroom or if we were in the military and a higher ranking officer walked into the room. We stand to show respect.

This is the default position for prayer in the Bible. So traditionally, this is the posture used for giving thanks and blessings.

Folks in the Bible always seem to be standing with hands raised, looking up to heaven. It’s probably the most common posture described in the Bible. Paul encourages people everywhere to “raise up holy hands in prayer” (1 Tim. 2:8).

Praying this way acknowledges the transcendence of God. Even though we know that God isn’t a giant man up in the sky, we naturally do this to show that he is spirit and that he is everywhere and that he is beyond us.

Check out the Pharisee and the tax-collector who went to the temple to pray in Luke 18:10-13. Both stood up to pray. One with his head bowed and the other I suspect with his head raised up. What difference would that make?

Kneel For Repentance

Man, when was the last time you kneeled to pray?

Kneeling is a physical act that lowers your stature below the one of higher status. It’s actually making you smaller in the presence of someone larger.

Kneeling shows humility. It’s the position Jesus took when he prayed “not my will, but your will be done” (Luke 21:41–44). For the longest time kneeling was the position to show repentance. Next time you’re confessing sin or humbling yourself to God’s will, try kneeling.

By the way, the secret to kneeling for a long time is to not sit on your feet. Get your hips above your knees with good posture.

Face Down on the Ground

This might be the best illustration of the Greek word most commonly used for worship in the New Testament. It’s proskuneo, in case you were wondering. Its root word means to kiss, like to kiss the ground or the feet.

This is the position of a desperate person, placing yourself as low as possible to emphasize the high position of God. You can use this when you’re worship is a lament or a confession.

Matt Redman has that great song Facedown.

And don’t forget that Nichole Nordeman has Tremble with the lines: “Face down on the ground / Do I dare take the liberty to stare at you?”

Can’t I Just Sit to Pray?

Of course, you can sit to pray. But what does it mean? Well, it means it’s going to be a long sermon. Seriously. The Reformers liked the fairly new Roman Catholic invention of the pews because it allowed folks to listen to long sermons. (Don’t quote me on that.)

David sat once when he prayed (2 Sam. 7:18). Based on the prayer, you can sit when you can rest in God because of he’ll take care of you.

The Law of Prayer Positions

There is no law of prayer positions. There are traditions and helpful descriptions in the Bible, but like with anything you do, things are only meaningful if you bring meaning to it.

I’m sure you’d love it if your church swayed (on beat) and raised their hands up (palm out, of course), but they don’t have to.

But whatever they do, encourage them to do it on purpose.

If you have other positions (like actions with your hands or head) that I haven’t mentioned, tell me. Or have you attached different meaning to the worship positions I talked about? I really want to know.

How Do I Choose Songs for Beginning Musicians?

pile of CDs

Beginning Worship Songs for Beginning Musicians

I had suggested limiting the repertoire of a rookie worship team. Keep it to the songs they play well even if that means you’ll be playing the same songs every week. With their confidence high, then you can slowly introduce new songs to build up the list of songs.

But what makes a good song for a band of beginning to intermediate musicians? Here are factors you need to keep in mind when choosing songs for your rookie worship team.

Basic and Common Chords

Choose songs where the variety of chords is low. Avoid songs with diminished chords. Sometimes you can substitute something for a diminished chord, but sometimes the song will lose too much of it’s character. Guess you’ll have to play The City Harmonic’s “Manifesto” another time. A lot of great songs were written with just three or four chords. Pick one of those and leave some of Israel Houghton’s stuff alone for now.

Familiar Key Signatures

The first instrument I learned to play was piano (well, it was the recorder, but stay with me). And I loved to play in the flat key signatures, B♭, A♭, D♭, F. Even E♭. Ah, E♭. We had some good times. How easily my hands formed the chord shapes.

Then I started hanging out with Christians and I realized all the cool Christian guys played guitar (not piano) and they hated playing in the flats. Guitarists like the keys of G, E, A, and D.

Unfortunately for keyboard players, it’s easier for them to adapt to guitarists than the other way around. Here’s a chart that shows how many sharps or flats (black keys) the more popular key signatures have. Avoid too many sharps for the sake of keyboard players. Avoid the flats for the sake of the guitarists. Your French horn player will have just have to adjust.

Sharp Keys No. of sharps Flat Keys No. of flats
G 1 sharps F 1 flat
D 2 sharps B♭ 2 flats
A 3 sharps E♭ 3 flats
E 4 sharps A♭ 4 flats
B 5 sharps D♭ 5 flats
F♯ 6 sharps G♭ 6 flats

Your guitarists can always capo. And you can change the key of a song you’d like to do. Moving from E&9837; to E isn’t usually a big deal.

Are you bad at transposing? Try transposr.com from Planning Center. It’s free and it can also transpose your mp3s so your team can practice with a recording.

Simple Rhythms

It’s best if there aren’t a lot of fast chord changes. It’s no use using basic chords if you have to hit the G to an A to a D on every third 16th note at 155 beats per minute. If you’re lucky they’ll hit whichever chord is on the downbeat.

Attainable Melody

Or, what’s a tessitura?

This is mostly for your singers, and it’s more than just having a melody that doesn’t go too high. I meant attainable in the sense that it’s within the ability of your singers. I would have used the word tessitura instead, but who knows what that means?
Well, you will after a few paragraphs because the tessitura of a song is determined by all of the following. A song with a good tessitura for a singer is one that can be sung by the singer without too much effort.

Range

Of course, the range of the song is a factor to consider. How high and low does the song go? Shoot for a range of an octave to an octave and a half. “Here I Am to Worship” is a good example of a well-written song with a limited range.

Melodic Leaps

Another thing to look for are jumps in the melody. It’s easier to sing melodies where the next note isn’t far from the note you’re on. The more leaps of 4 steps or more in a melody the harder it is to sing.

Listen to the verses on “Forever Reign.” There’s one jump of 4 steps. But it’s mostly 1 step moves.

Now listen to the chorus of “One More Night” by Maroon 5. There are multiple 5 step jumps in a short amount of time. And then the melody does it again.

I’m not saying you have to choose songs whose melodies are only stepwise moves. Just know the more leaps there are, the more challenging it is to sing.

Average Pitch

This is what folks usually mean when they say tessitura. What I want to know is what pitches does most of the melody fall?

Maybe your female singer can hit an high E pretty easily, but it’s a lot of work if most of the melody is in her upper range. If she’s not experienced, she might start to get tired before the song is over. You’ll be able to tell because she’ll start to get pitchy.

A song with a high, moderately wide tessitura: “Cannons” by Phil Wickham
A song with a middling, fairly narrow tessitura: “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber (Yeah, I went there)
A song with a low, narrow tessitura: “Numb” by U2 (Sung by The Edge. That’s a deep cut, baby.)

Choose Your Songs Wisely

An easy song for your rookie worship team to learn is one with common chords, simple rhythms, and an undemanding melody. And remember just because the song is easier to play and learn doesn’t mean it’s not a good song.

Keeping these things in mind will also help you to know how to challenge your team. If they have a good handle on their chord changes so you’ll do “In Tenderness” by Citizens that only has 4 chords more or less repeated, but it moves at a pretty fast clip.

What songs do you know that are simple but powerful?