Singing vs Prayer as an Ordinance

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wraezor

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello folks,

We've recently had a sermon on singing as an ordinance of worship. This inevitably led to some discussions about RPW and EP. Some of the examples and anectdotal arguments got me thinking about the inherent properties, similarities and differences in our ordinances, particularly prayer and singing.

Prayer
a) Offered 'upward' to God (similar to singing)
b) Auditorily monotone or melodic (similar to singing)
c) To be performed in corporate, in family, and in private worship (similar to singing)
d) Verbalized by a single voice (different from singing)
e) Content can be extemporaneous (different from singing)

Singing
a) Offered 'upward' to God (similar to prayer)
b) Auditorily monotone or melodic (similar to prayer)
c) To be performed in corporate, in family, and in private worship (similar to singing)
d) Verbalized by all voices participating in the worship (different from prayer)
e) Content is provided in Scripture (different from prayer)

The reason I'm approaching it this way is to see what fundamentally distinguishes these two ordinances. Am I correct in saying (point b) that personal prayers can be expressed melodically without it falling under EP? If true, the nature of singing is unique in its properties of congregational participation and regulated content. That, more than the monotony or melody of the expression is what defines it as an ordinance.

Are there better arguments about the prayer/singing distinction that can shed light on this?
 

Kaalvenist

Puritan Board Sophomore
"What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (1 Cor. 14:15).

Also observe that the word here translated as "sing" is the verb form of "psalm" (psalo).
 

wraezor

Puritan Board Freshman
I dug out Bushell (Songs of Zion) for his take and found what he said to be very helpful. I'll quote some of it below for anyone's benefit who may stumble upon this thread (pp. 48-49):

To begin with, we freely grant that singing, preaching, prayer, and teaching all have certain aspects in common. Singing, preaching, and prayer all to varying extents manifest teaching functions. We also grant that they are all different ways or means of applying the Word of God to given situations. But this observation does not in itself settle the question of whether or not singing is a distinct or separate element of worship. Certainly some prayers in Scripture are songs and some songs are prayers, but it is equally clear that some prayers are not songs and some songs are not prayers. Praying and singing, in other words, are distinct acts. The same may be said of preaching. Prayer, singing, and preaching may at times have certain aspects or functions in common, such as teaching or praise, but they are nonetheless distinguishable from one another and separately commanded in Scripture.

The obligation to pray is not fulfilled by singing, even if singing has much in common with prayer, and the obligation to sing praise to God is not fulfilled by praying or preaching. We do not claim that these are three independent elements of worship, but we do claim that these are separately commanded and that because they are distinguishable from one another, they are distinct elements of worship. We therefore claim that a specific warrant as to content is demanded in each case. The argument that singing is simply another means, alongside poetic speech and prose speech, of praying, praising, confessing, teaching, preaching, admonishing, etc., does not affect this assertion in the least, because the regulative principle, if it governs anything at all, governs the means of worship. Since prayer is an act of worship, prayer by means of prose speech and prayer by means of song, require separate scriptural warrant as to content.
He's responding to an objection by Vern Poythress and continues engaging with it further, but I thought that portion was quite compelling and addressed my original question.
 

Unoriginalname

Puritan Board Junior
To begin with, we freely grant that singing, preaching, prayer, and teaching all have certain aspects in common. Singing, preaching, and prayer all to varying extents manifest teaching functions. We also grant that they are all different ways or means of applying the Word of God to given situations. But this observation does not in itself settle the question of whether or not singing is a distinct or separate element of worship. Certainly some prayers in Scripture are songs and some songs are prayers, but it is equally clear that some prayers are not songs and some songs are not prayers. Praying and singing, in other words, are distinct acts. The same may be said of preaching. Prayer, singing, and preaching may at times have certain aspects or functions in common, such as teaching or praise, but they are nonetheless distinguishable from one another and separately commanded in Scripture.

The obligation to pray is not fulfilled by singing, even if singing has much in common with prayer, and the obligation to sing praise to God is not fulfilled by praying or preaching. We do not claim that these are three independent elements of worship, but we do claim that these are separately commanded and that because they are distinguishable from one another, they are distinct elements of worship. We therefore claim that a specific warrant as to content is demanded in each case. The argument that singing is simply another means, alongside poetic speech and prose speech, of praying, praising, confessing, teaching, preaching, admonishing, etc., does not affect this assertion in the least, because the regulative principle, if it governs anything at all, governs the means of worship. Since prayer is an act of worship, prayer by means of prose speech and prayer by means of song, require separate scriptural warrant as to content.
:detective: Interesting, thanks for something to think about.
 
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