No prophecy ever originated because some man willed it to do so—it never came by human impulse, but men spoke from God who were borne along moved and impelled by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21, Amplified Bible Classic Edition)
This passage reminds us that Scripture came into being by Divine inspiration. It should not be a stretch, then, that anything God wants His people to have requires His inspiration if flows through human intermediaries. Worship music, in fact, is referred to as “prophesying” in scripture: “Also David and the chiefs of the host of the Lord separated to the temple service some of the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, who should prophesy being INSPIRED with lyres, harps, and cymbals.” (I Chronicles 25:1, AMPC)
What is “inspiration”? How can we recognize—and, not incidentally, how can we discern whether or not it’s from God? On this last question, there has much debate among Christians for a long time, and the only conclusion seems to be like what Duke Ellington said: “There are two kinds of music—good music, and the other kind.” Undeniably, not all inspiration comes from God. But rather than nitpick over small details and personal preferences, a better focus would be on what a Christian musician experiences in his own personal interaction with God’s Spirit, and how that may differ from ordinary, everyday music-making.
One give-away as to what is “inspired” is the utter ease, speed and effortlessness in which God’s inspiration translates into tangible expression—whether it’s lyric, a melody, a chord progression, or an overall concept. It’s an “aha” moment when you suddenly sing or play something you haven’t heard before. While it can be argued that no musical idea is truly “original” due to there being only 12 distinct tones used in Western music, it’s the way those tones are strung together and/or wedded with meaningful words that is the stuff of inspiration. When ideas come full-blown, intact, and ready-to-go, you can safely say you’re “inspired”. If it lifts up Jesus Christ, rest assured that God was the source of inspiration.
But let’s not confine inspiration only to the act of creating music. Every aspect of Christian worship—singing, playing an instrument, praying, preaching, greeting, handing out bulletins—can be either inspired or dull and perfunctory. The key to receiving God’s inspiration is described in Proverbs 16:3: “Roll your works upon the Lord—commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and so shall your plans be established and succeed.” Doing this requires faith on our part—confidence that God will actually follow through when we need Him.
Make a place for inspiration in your life as a Christian musician.
Ray Andrews currently serves as senior pastor of Romans Eight Church in Fort Worth, Texas, after having been music pastor there for 30 years. His involvement with music ministry spans five decades in many areas, such as composing, arranging, recording, vocal and instrumental performance, and teaching. Contact him at [email protected].