This year I’ve been drawn to the thought that prayer is music to the ears of God. A number of my favourite musical pieces have got a mention in the process. Prayer as a symphony, a concerto, a sonata, a theme and variations and an overture give us different ways of considering how we approach prayer. There is a discipline involved just as there is in writing those forms of music. Sometimes, however, it’s nice just to cast aside the formal patterns and let thoughts and words go where they will. That is Rhapsody.
One of the most famous perhaps is another of my favourites, the Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. In music the rhapsody is characterised by its freedom from recognised patterns. There is a sense of improvisation, of going with the flow. The Rhapsody in Blue is a classic example of melodies woven together and repeated in different ways throughout the work. Sometimes the mood is playful, sometimes reflective.
Prayer doesn’t always have to be formal. It doesn’t always have to have an intended purpose. It can sometimes be a fanciful, off-the-cuff conversation. It can be playful; it can muse; it can speculate. Is it too frivolous for God? I think not. I believe God chuckles when we let our minds go into free flight, exploring the possible and the impossible alike. There doesn’t always have to be a point to our prayer; simply being is purpose enough.
The rhapsody of prayer is not as easy to define as other ways of praying, just as the musical counterpart is less well defined. But it is often a sign of a deepening relationship. It comes out of a more relaxed – and less demanding – companionship; the easy silences, the shared joke. And perhaps in this way we begin to hear – and learn – more.