My “Prophetic Psalming” article was published in 1997 by The Morningstar Journal. This article is condensed from my teaching entitled, “The Open Door.” To order “The Open Door” click here.
An Audience of One
A psalmist is called to minister to God before ministering for Him. God wants our hearts. We can learn impressive musical skills, but no one can “train” a psalmist to love God. Every day a psalmist must choose to love God and enter into His presence in secret through praise and worship. If you want to be used by the Lord in public, prepare by giving Him private concerts of worship and praise. I eventually came to the point where I preferred playing in front of nobody but God. Only recently has God begun to allow me to flow in a psalming anointing in public.
The Holy Spirit must be the only spirit that motivates the psalmist. Pride must go, and our performance orientation needs to be nailed to the cross. A psalmist must be totally dead to selfish ambition in the world’s system, a daunting task in a society which idolizes those with musical talent and pays huge sums of money to merchandise the gifts of God. But you cannot successfully do warfare against principalities which you have allowed to remain in your heart. It is dangerous to presume to be a psalmist without total consecration to God and His ways. Things which have been allowed in the past will no longer be acceptable in the days to come.
God gave me a vision in late 1989. I saw the temple sacrifices as they occurred during an event such as Solomon’s dedication of the Temple (see I Kings 8:62-63). I saw the musicians and the choir with their faces pointing upward. They were standing right in front of the animal sacrifices. Thousands of animals were being slaughtered. It was not a pretty sight. Blood, gore and guts were all over the place. It smelled. It was noisy–a bull doesn’t go quietly to his demise.
I asked, “God, what is this? Why are you showing me this?” He said that when I play music it is as if I were standing in front of priests sacrificing animals, but I should be oblivious to the smell, the noise and the sight of the blood. I should not be moved by how a congregation looks or the extent to which they seem to respond. Rather, my role is to focus on the Lord and respond to the spiritual condition of the people only as directed by the Holy Spirit.
This vision brought home the level of concentration a psalmist must focus on Jesus and the Holy Spirit while ministering. He or she ultimately plays for an audience of One. If the psalmist is obedient, the end result will be the Father’s pleasure and lasting fruit in the lives of the people.
The Bible exhorts musicians to “play skillfully with a loud noise” (Psalm 33:3). Skill is more than the ability to read music and play or sing with technical accuracy. Skillfulness must combine technique and improvisation. Improvisation is the spiritual component of music, the part which breathes life into the dry bones of technique. Improvisation is the work of the Spirit, and a psalmist must have a dynamic, experiential relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for “skillful,” yatab, has shades of meaning: to be good, to be well, to be beautiful, to be pleasant, to be lovely, to be glad, to be cheerful. Responding to the Holy Spirit, anointed psalmists will be able to do one or all of these things on their instruments or with their voices.
Currently, the requirements for modern-day Levites vary from church to church. Sometimes technical skill is the only requirement. In other situations, musical proficiency is overlooked, to the detriment of all. We should choose the worship team based on skill, commitment and the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. There should be a process of training those with promise and bringing them to maturity, both spiritually and musically.
I believe that God will soon send the church a large number of secular musicians who are really called as psalmists. These will need to be discipled, but they will be ready to minister quickly. As musical and spiritual competency increases, we will hear not only psalms and hymns, but “spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). These improvisational melodies and words will bring salvation, healing, deliverance, prophecy, warfare and worship. Musicians will reach a place of unity in the Spirit in which He is truly the conductor.
Psalm 32:8 promises, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” A similar theme is found in Deuteronomy 4:36a, “Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee.”
The essence of psalming is the improvisational creation of melody and words under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. How is this possible? With man it is not, but “With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). To describe this process of flowing during worship in the revelatory gifts of I Corinthians 12, I use the word “scanning.” Scanning is the art of listening to God for words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, picture instructions, Scripture, prophecy, etc., while continuing to play. It incorporates improvisation, but requires something more–a “seeing in the Spirit” which makes the improvisation of words and music consistent with the will of God for a specific moment in time.
The psalmist may receive a word of knowledge, wisdom, prophecy, healing or intercession for the entire congregation or for specific individuals. Scanning combines spirituality with physical activity, an opportunity for the psalmist to give spirit, soul and body to the Lord. Obedience to revelation received can break chains in the heavenlies and release captives on the earth. To do this, it is necessary to have a level of skill which allows the musician to move beyond the need to concentrate on playing or singing to a place of hearing and responding.
Have you ever seen a blind pianist? A blind pianist must of necessity become a skillful “ear” musician. This is what the psalmist must learn to do as well. In scanning, the psalmist focuses on God, reaching a place where the notes alone may pierce the heavens or touch people’s hearts with a message beyond words. Along the way, the psalmist prays in the Spirit, waits, slows down, speeds up, and generally flows in the Spirit as the next step is being revealed. Thus, scanning is a combination of technique, improvisation and spiritual discernment. It is a faith walk, but one of freedom, communion and power.