Music Matters

September 2014

Music under prayers

A reader of Music Matters asks, “Is playing music under prayers good or bad?” Music can add drama to a prayer similar to a movie soundtrack, however Pam Robison offers an interesting perspective as an aural learner:

In some congregations, the tradition has been to play soft music under spoken prayers. In many ways, it’s a congregational preference—but for some of us, it can create challenges in our worship experience.

I appreciate listening to the prayers, but when the piano or organ (or perhaps another instrument) is played softly underneath, I find I cannot concentrate on either the prayer or the music. I hear both. Each competes for my attention, especially if the music is familiar (i.e., a hymn or a “traditional” church piece of some type).

Those of us who are aural learners need to hear one thing at a time. We need to either share in a spoken prayer or worship through music; many of us simply cannot do both. It’s not a question of trying harder. It’s simply the way our bodies are wired.

Perhaps as congregations we need to simply become more aware of the multitude of ways in which we worship. Some do it through silence, some through spoken words, some through music, some through hands-on experiences. While we cannot meet all these needs in every worship experience, we can learn to be sensitive to others’ needs and willing to put aside our own immediate desires to help everyone worship.

—Pam Robison

Music Matters: tips and insights for church musicians. Subscribe to receive Music Matters every month.

If you have suggestions or ideas for future columns, please contact:

Jan Kraybill
Principal Organist
Community of Christ Headquarters
Independence, MO, USA


David Bolton
Worship and Music Support Specialist
Community of Christ Headquarters
Independence, MO, USA