I recall a song, which I first learned from the old Mission Praise songbook, beginning with the words ‘Lord make me an instrument’. The third verse began with the words ‘Lord make us a symphony, a symphony of worship’. There can be occasions when, at prayer meetings, two or more people can spontaneously pray the same prayer. Instruments playing in unison make a strong impact on the music but the richness of the symphony is in the different lines of music. Different instruments playing different tunes, some in a high register, some in a middle register, some deeper blend together to create an infinite variety of sounds. Sometimes there is a delicate blend of just a few instruments. At other times the whole orchestra is in full flow together. Instruments play for a while then rest. There is a constant ebb and flow of sound which makes up the power of the music to transport the listener.
And different instruments have different sound qualities. Think of the plaintive oboe, the shrill piccolo, the haunting French horn. Each adds a special effect to the music when required. Part of the success of the symphony is in the intentional blending of the sounds to create a variety of moods.
When we pray, we don’t all pray in the same way, or at the same time. We have different personal qualities and abilities. We use different language – and we focus on different issues. Sometimes unison prayer brings out a melodic theme. At other times we are all praying at the same time about different things. And God isn’t just listening…
I guess at times our symphony of prayer must sound like the cacophony we associate with the orchestra tuning up at the start of a concert. But God is the composer, conductor and audience. When we pray ‘in his name’ we are alert to his baton, using our own special qualities, not trying to be like another different instrument, ready at his direction to blend our prayers and express our corporate concern and love for God’s world. Under God’s guidance our prayers become more effective; the symphony of prayer much more harmonious and full of melodies and counter-melodies. But if we get it wrong and it does sound more like the orchestra tuning up, remember this. I reckon God much prefers our cacophony to our silence…..