Keeping God at the centre of your practice time
WHY should I centre my practising on God?
He is to be LORD of my whole life
Paul tells us, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men’ (Colossians 3:23). We’re to put God first in every area of life - this must include our practice time!
God gave me my talent
The Lord created and designed us with unique gifts to be used for His glory and the extension of His kingdom: ‘we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works’ (Ephesians 2:10). We’re responsible for developing our talents and investing them in ways that honour God (see Matthew 25:14-30).
I can prepare in private to honour Him in public
If we get in the habit of putting God first and relying on Him in our personal practice time, it will come naturally to do so in group rehearsals and public performances when we have the chance to glorify Him before others.
I need His protection
We have an enemy who hates everything God loves and hates above all for God to get the praise and honour He deserves. Satan will attempt to prevent us using God’s good gifts effectively for Him by attacking us with fear / discouragement / physical affliction, or tempting us to harbour attitudes like pride and selfish ambition which make us unteachable, difficult to work with or unwilling to serve. God has given us His truth to protect us (Ephesians 6:10-18) – His words give us confidence in His love and help, and challenge us to remain humble. Jesus shows us how to beat the temptation to satisfy ourselves first or take credit for what God has done, by speaking God’s powerful word (Matthew 4:1-11; see also Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15).
It’s an opportunity for intimacy
Our Lord continually desires relationship with us. We are promised, ‘the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9), but He won’t force Himself on us (Revelation 3:20). Every waking second of our lives is a chance to invite Him to be with us so we can learn from Him and know Him better. In a busy day, private practice time is a golden opportunity to be alone with God. This can’t replace a regular ‘quiet time’ of prayer and bible study, but it’s a starting point for learning to walk with God in our daily activites.
He is uniquely able to help me
‘If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him’ (James 1:5). God created our bodies and wired our minds (Psalm 139:1-3, 13-14); not only that, directly or indirectly He also created our instruments, inspired the music we play, and governs the physics and acoustics fundamental to sound and harmony. He dwells within us by His Holy Spirit and empowers us to live for Him. There is no one better-qualified to teach us how to play or sing to the best of our ability, and in a spirit that honours Him!
He loves me
God’s love for us is permanent, unalterable, infinite and unconditional. ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8) We’re so often tempted to measure self-worth by our own / others’ perceptions of our music – so it’s reassuring to know that no matter how well or badly you perform you can’t make God love you any more or any less than He already does. He cares about your struggles and wants to help you – rest in His love and allow Him to work in you.
HOW can I focus on God while practising?
BEGIN by turning to God
Stop and pray before taking out your instrument / music.
- GIVE THANKS for your talent, your instrument, time and space to practise, teachers, composers, fellow ensemble / class members, study / performance opportunities etc.
- PRAISE God for His character and promises
- SURRENDER / DEDICATION - consciously offer your heart, mind, body, instrument, imagination, talent, time etc. to God and affirm Him as ruler over them
- Visual aids can help e.g. write out some encouraging Bible verses and keep them on your wall, in your instrument case, write them on your music etc. You could also use a picture that reminds you to think of God e.g. an image of the cross or a beautiful landscape.
- Use your voice / instrument in worship e.g. incorporate a hymn or praise song into your warm-up or improvise a response to God.
CONTINUE working with God:
- Focus – Hebrews 12:2 tells us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’, get our focus off ourselves, our egos and our problems and instead remember who is our Master and what He’s done for us.
- Dependence – bring each task / problem before God and ask his help. God’s grace is a tremendous resource which will never fail you: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus said, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
- Humility – the key message of the book of Proverbs is that truly wise people are those who are ready to learn from others (this is a good attitude to take to lessons and rehearsals too!) and most of all from God. Ask God to give you a teachable spirit so you can grow in understanding and skill! Jesus said, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29).
- Interpretation – ask God to inspire you, ask Him what He wants to say to your audience through the music.
- Communication – play or sing to and for God - He is the audience who never leaves you! Use your music to tell Him how much you love Him and want to honour Him.
- Discipline – Leviticus 1-7 describes how the Israelites were commanded to offer only perfect, unblemished animals as sacrifices to God. Paul tells us to ‘offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’ (Romans 12:1). God is holy and awesome and He deserves your best efforts, so don’t be lazy or settle for mediocrity thinking no-one else will hear! God is committed to developing your character and growing your faith as well as your talent, which means you’ll face hard work and trials as well as experiencing His blessing – secure in the knowledge of His love, you can trust Him and keep going. Hebrews 12 tells us, ‘do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves. ... God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees!’ (verses 5-6, 10-12).
- Grace – when things don’t go so well, preach the gospel to yourself. God chose you and sent His Son to die for you before you had ever done anything, good or bad, and His Holy Spirit in you guarantees His acceptance of you now and forever (Ephesians 1:3-14). ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7)
FINISH by acknowledging God...
- ...with thanksgiving for progress made and insights gained, and for His presence with you.
- Commit to Him in prayer the rehearsal / class / gig you’re going to next.