“It is good to sing praises to our God.”—PSALM 147:1.
1. What does singing help us to do?
A FAMOUS songwriter once said: “Words make you think thoughts. Music makes you feel a feeling. But a song makes you feel a thought.” Our songs express praise and love for our heavenly Father, Jehovah. They make us feel closer to him. It is easy, then, to understand why singing plays such an important role in pure worship, whether we sing alone or with our brothers and sisters.
2, 3. (a) How might some feel about singing out loud with the congregation? (b) What questions will we discuss in this article?
2 How, though, do you feel about singing out loud with the congregation? Is it embarrassing to you? In some cultures, men may feel uncomfortable singing in front of others. This attitude can have a negative effect on the entire congregation, especially if the elders hesitate to sing or if they are busy with other activities during the songs.—Psalm 30:12.
3 Singing is part of our worship to Jehovah. Therefore, we certainly do not want to walk away during a song or miss that part of the meeting. Therefore, we should all ask ourselves: ‘How do I feel about singing at the meetings? What can I do if I hesitate to sing in front of others? And how can I sing the songs with feeling?’
SINGING IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF TRUE WORSHIP
4, 5. What were the arrangements for singing at the temple in ancient Israel?
4 Throughout history, worshippers of Jehovah have used music to praise him. Interestingly, when the Israelites were faithful to Jehovah, singing was an important part of their worship. For example, when David made preparations for the temple, he organized 4,000 Levites to praise Jehovah with music. Of these, 288 were “trained in song to Jehovah, all experts.”—1 Chronicles 23:5; 25:7.
5 Music and singing were also an important part of the dedication of the temple. The Bible tells us: “At the moment when the trumpeters and the singers were praising and thanking Jehovah in unison, and as the sound ascended from the trumpets, the cymbals, and the other musical instruments as they were praising Jehovah, . . . the glory of Jehovah filled the house of the true God.” Imagine how this occasion must have strengthened the faith of the Israelites!—2 Chronicles 5:13, 14; 7:6.
6. What arrangements for music and singing did Nehemiah make when he was the governor of Jerusalem?
6 Nehemiah, who organized the Israelites to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, also organized the Levites to sing and play music. Their performance made the dedication of the walls even more joyful. Nehemiah had appointed “two large thanksgiving choirs.” The choirs walked along the top of the city’s walls in opposite directions until they met on the wall closest to the temple area. The sound they made was so loud that people could hear it from far away. (Nehemiah 12:27, 28, 31, 38, 40, 43) We can be sure that Jehovah was pleased to hear his worshippers enthusiastically singing songs of praise to him.
7. How did Jesus show that singing would be an essential part of worship for Christians?
7 In Jesus’ time, music continued to be an essential part of true worship. Think about what happened on the most important night in human history. After Jesus held the Lord’s Evening Meal with his disciples, they all sang songs of praise to Jehovah.—Read Matthew 26:30.
8. How did the first Christians set an example of praising God with songs?
8 The first Christians set a good example of praising God with songs. Unlike the Israelites, who went to the temple to worship Jehovah, those Christians met in private homes. Even though those homes were not as beautiful and impressive as the temple, the brothers still sang with zeal. In fact, the apostle Paul told his Christian brothers: “Keep on teaching and encouraging one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs sung with gratitude, singing in your hearts to Jehovah.” (Colossians 3:16) The songs in our songbook should certainly be “sung with gratitude.” They are part of the “food at the proper time” that “the faithful and discreet slave” provides for us.—Matthew 24:45.
HOW CAN YOU SING WITH CONFIDENCE?
9. (a) Why might some hesitate to sing out joyfully at our meetings and assemblies? (b) How should we sing praises to Jehovah, and who should take the lead? (See opening picture.)
9 What are some reasons why you may hesitate to sing? Maybe singing is not common in your family or culture. Or perhaps you listen to professional singers on the radio or on TV, and when you compare your singing to theirs, you feel embarrassed or disappointed. But we all have the responsibility to sing praises to Jehovah. So hold your songbook up high, lift your head, and sing with enthusiasm! (Ezra 3:11; read Psalm 147:1.) Many Kingdom Halls today have screens that show the words of our songs, and this can help us to sing out. It is also interesting that singing Kingdom songs is now part of the Kingdom Ministry School for elders. This emphasizes how important it is for elders to take the lead in singing at congregation meetings.
10. What should we remember if we are afraid of singing with a loud voice?
10 Many are afraid to sing with a loud voice because they think that they will be too loud or that they do not have a good voice. However, think about this. “We all stumble many times” when we speak, but that does not stop us from speaking. (James 3:2) So why should we let our imperfect voices stop us from singing songs of praise to Jehovah?
11, 12. How can we improve our singing?
11 Maybe we are afraid of singing because we do not know how to sing. Yet, there are some simple things we can do to improve our singing.*—See footnote.
12 You can sing with a strong and loud voice by learning how to breathe properly. Just as electricity gives power to a light bulb, your breath powers your voice when you speak or sing. You should sing as loud as you speak or even louder. (See the suggestions in Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, pages 181 to 184, under the subheading “Properly Control Your Air Supply.”) In fact, the Bible sometimes tells Jehovah’s worshippers to “shout joyfully” when singing praises.—Psalm 33:1-3.
13. Explain how we can sing more confidently.
13 During family worship or on your own, try the following: Choose one of your favorite songs from our songbook. Read the lyrics out loud in a strong, confident voice. Next, using the same volume, say all the words from a single phrase in one breath. Then, sing the phrase using the same strong voice. (Isaiah 24:14) Your singing voice will become more powerful, and that is a good thing. Do not let that scare you or embarrass you!
14. (a) How can opening our mouth wider help our singing? (See the box “How to Improve Your Singing.”) (b) What suggestions for overcoming voice problems do you find helpful?
14 In order to have a powerful singing voice, you need to make space in your mouth. So when you sing, open your mouth wider than you normally do when you are speaking. But what should you do if you feel that you have a weak voice or a voice that is too high-pitched? You can find some helpful suggestions in the box “Overcoming Specific Problems,” which is found in Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, page 184.
SING PRAISES FROM THE HEART
15. (a) What announcement was made at the 2016 annual meeting? (b) What are some reasons the songbook was revised?
15 Everyone who attended the 2016 annual meeting was excited when Brother Stephen Lett of the Governing Body announced a new songbook with the title “Sing Out Joyfully” to Jehovah. As Brother Lett explained, one reason we needed a new songbook was that the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures had been revised. The lyrics were changed to remove expressions no longer found in the New World Translation. Also, new songs about the preaching work and the ransom were added. In addition, because singing is an essential part of our worship, the Governing Body wanted to produce a high-quality songbook. So its cover is similar to that of the New World Translation.
16, 17. What are some other changes in the new songbook?
16 To make the songbook easier to use, the songs are grouped together by subject. For example, the first 12 songs are about Jehovah, the next 8 songs are about Jesus and the ransom, and so on. There is a complete list of all the subjects at the beginning of the songbook. This can be helpful, for example, when a brother needs to choose a song for a public talk.
17 To help everyone sing from the heart, some of the lyrics were changed to make the message of the songs clearer. Words that are not used very often, such as the word “shall,” were also replaced. Similarly, the song entitled “Long-Suffering” became “Exercise Patience,” and the lyrics of the song were also adjusted. And it was appropriate to change the title of the song “Guard Your Heart” from a command to the statement “We Guard Our Hearts.” Why? Because before, when a person sang the words of this song, he was telling others what to do. This could be awkward for new ones, interested ones, young ones, and sisters who are at our meetings, assemblies, and conventions. So the title and the lyrics were changed.
18. Why should we learn the songs in our new songbook? (See footnote.)
18 Many of the songs from “Sing Out Joyfully” to Jehovah are like prayers. These songs can help you tell Jehovah how you feel. Other songs will help to incite us “to love and fine works.” (Hebrews 10:24) We want to get to know the melodies, rhythms, and words of our songs. One way we can do this is by listening to recordings of brothers and sisters singing the songs. These recordings are available on jw.org. When you practice the songs at home, you can learn to sing them with confidence and feeling.*—See footnote.
19. How can all in the congregation worship Jehovah?
19 Remember that singing is an important part of our worship. It is a powerful way to show Jehovah that we love him and that we are grateful for all he has done for us. (Read Isaiah 12:5.) When you sing enthusiastically, you encourage others to do the same. All in the congregation, whether young, old, or new in the truth, can worship Jehovah in this way. So do not hesitate to sing from the heart. Obey the direction of the psalmist who said: “Sing to Jehovah!” Yes, make a joyful sound!—Psalm 96:1.
For more suggestions on how to improve your singing voice, see the December 2014 monthly program on JW Broadcasting (video category FROM OUR STUDIO).
Each morning and afternoon of our convention and assembly programs begins with a ten-minute music presentation. These presentations help us get excited about singing and prepare us to listen to the program. Therefore, we should all be in our seats and ready to listen when the music starts.