A simple prayer of three words: Open my lips.
“Lord, open them first, and then my mouth can declare your praise. Deliver me quickly, and help me, O Lord, to glorify your holy name as you are present among us in your Word. All your people join in the hymn of all creation, the hymn of the New Song, the Gospel, that has won victory for us. My soul magnifies you and sings to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are worthy of being praised with pure voices forever. O Lord, have mercy upon us.”
More than 1,000 lips of youth, adults, and pastors were opened to sing this truth of God’s Word on July 26-29 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Joy ran through my fingers on the organ as I supported these voices with music&mdashthis joy in the midst of sin and suffering, joy in Christ’s resurrection, and joy that is shared with the company of angels and archangels, evermore praising God and singing, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.”
Day after day, we sang of Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Day after day, we returned to this simple prayer: O Lord, open my lips.
O Lord, open my lips, because they are closed by sin. Behind them dwell evil thoughts, words, and actions. The fool says in its own heart, “there is no God.” He is a beast towards God, refusing to utter His truth and acting in false witness, slander, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and the like. We have turned our lips toward the creation rather than the Creator, opening them rather for the purpose of selfish glory and attractiveness. We open them for the food we crave&mdashthat of idolatry and immorality. We feed upon the food of this world.
Yet there is the Good News: Our lips are opened in our baptism, from which we can sing of the new heart created within us. Our lips are opened in this faith that receives the true Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, who gives Himself to us by simple means of water, bread, and wine for the forgiveness of sins. Our lips are opened, because we are beggars. We come to God’s House, ready to receive forgiveness of sins as we feast upon this Bread of Life delivered to us by God.
Music, then, becomes a part of this deliverance or “unwrapping” of the Gospel. It allows the words to come alive as we sing them. While God’s Word directs man to use music in the doxology of creation with his gifts of voice and instrument, music moves man’s heart toward the doxology of the new creation to proclaim and praise God and His work of salvation for us. Music’s true service is founded upon musica crucis, the music of the cross, that centers upon Jesus Christ.
A church musician’s prayer is as simple as “O Lord, open my lips,” because without faith, we would have no joy in the Gospel. We would have no words to sing of this life won for us. Our music would have no meaning, and it would be empty of the “pure voices” belonging to God’s people that join together in Christ to sing the New Song of salvation. My prayer throughout this week of Higher Things was to strengthen our faith, and so our voices, to the proclamation and praise of God’s Holy Word.
And so God answers, “I know My own; My own know me. You, not the world, My face shall see. My peace I leave with you. Amen.” His words from His lips to ours in this simple assurance that “Christ is Himself the joy of all” continues to ring true as we live in our baptism. May God continue to open our lips to receive Himself and proclaim His salvation to all creation.
“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Amen.
Bethany Woelmer is a member at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kansas and a graduate student in church music at the University of Kansas.