My dear friend gave a talk in church on Sunday about prayer. After sharing some of the struggles she has had with prayer, she told us that there is one form of prayer that she has always excelled in, and turned to Doctrine & Covenants 25:12. "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." Music has been her purest form of communication with God. She has often gone to the piano in times of sorrow and joy to play hymns and sing. She then shared some of the lyrics from favorite hymns that mean the most to her. It was such a beautiful expression of her love for God and her faith in him.
Later in the evening, she and I returned to the church to sing in an Easter concert for the community. I thought more about what she had said as we performed a beautiful series of pieces about Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. I, too, have difficulties with prayer. However, when I'm singing sacred music, which I love to do, I find myself focusing the words toward God, telling him that I agree with the lyrics whole-heartedly. I love the hymns of enthusiastic praise. I love many of the somber hymns about Christ's sacrifice for us. I love the hymns about struggling through hard times and finding strength and comfort in God. As a child (and still) I loved the primary songs. I used them to help myself overcome bad feelings. I remember singing them to my siblings at night to help them sleep. Perhaps the earliest spiritual feelings I had, my first feelings of connection to a living god, came from singing.
One of my gifts that brings me the greatest happiness is my ability to sing. I am not a soloist, by any means--and definitely not a soprano--but I have a clear, sweet, true voice, and I can thank God for that. I also thank my parents for singing the hymns so enthusiastically at home and at church, and my wonderful junior high choir director, Connie Branton, for giving me a lifetime's worth of vocal training in the three years I sang for her.
It could not be a coincidence that sacred music brought me and Dan together for the first time. We first met in a History of Civilization class at BYU. He was a student, and I was one of the three teaching assistants. After the first class, Dan came up and introduced himself and we chatted a bit about the hymn that we had listened to that morning, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." He wanted to know if I was aware that it had a third verse that was not in our hymnbook? No, I was not. He shared the words of the unfamiliar verse with me. This made quite an impression, because I had never met anyone my age who even knew that hymn, since it was in an older edition of the hymn book which was no longer in active use. I only knew it because it was one of my dad's favorites, and he had taught it to us.
I remember a time when we were sitting in his truck talking, and he was upset about something. I started to sing "Beautiful Savior", another of my favorite hymns, and it was very moving for him to hear it at that moment, as it was a special favorite of his, as well. People were usually impressed with how many hymns I knew by heart, but it was nothing compared to the hymns Dan knew. He introduced me to all kinds of great ones that I had never sung before (like, "O Say What is Truth"), for which he knew not only all the verses, but the hymn numbers as well (oh, that math brain of his!). We have spent many happy hours on road trips singing together, and it is a sweet experience to now see our children learning to love these same songs.