Our annual Men's Retreat began on the night when the country was appearing to celebrate music with the Grammy Awards telecast. It was no hardship to be without television on that evening, since I had stopped watching the Grammys long ago. I am not sure if that was on account of the increasing popularity of so-called music that was not even remotely melodic, or if it was because the show had become so salacious and self-indulgent. In any case, it was not because of the Grammys that I decided to punctuate our men's retreat on prayer with what I like to call meaningful music, it was because of the power of music to move our hearts and touch our souls.
Our retreat was almost entirely about praying. We tried to shed some light on the history of prayer, on the mechanics of prayer, and we gathered to pray communally several times a day. But it was the small three minute songs that I periodically shared with the men which seemed to have the most impact on them. I had collected some twenty meaningful songs gleaned from a variety of diverse artists, all songs that made a point, made you think, and were rich with meaning.
Josh Groban reminded the men that there was so much to be thankful for, and Rachel York would urge them to reflect on how much their lives mattered. Sandy Patty made the men think about how they would live their lives if today were the last of all days, and Phil Vasser would speak for God and challenge the men to take a critical look at what they were doing with the world that God entrusted to them. Nancy LaMott sang of the ordinary miracles that happen all around, and Norm Lewis solemnly pointed out that we live on borrowed time.
It was St. Augustine that said the person who sings prays twice. Although we were not singing the songs that I shared with the men, the artists were singing for us, and were revealing truths about us, the world in which we live, and the God who was at the center of all that we did while on retreat. Surely this reflective listening was itself a prayer.
There was something terribly appropriate about sharing these musical moments with the men, for the songs seemed to be more prayer than entertainment. Perhaps if the Grammys had an award for the song that most moved our hearts and touched our lives, perhaps then I might be moved to once again watch the live telecast.