Music – Prayer without Words

Growing our spirituality
June 25, 2020
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July 9, 2020

Music – Prayer without Words

Bach gave us God’s Word, Mozart gave us God’s Laughter,

Beethoven gave us God’s Fire,

God gave us Music that we might pray without words.

When I first found the quote above I was putting together some table topics for a Toast Masters meeting. My theme was music and so I went looking for quotes that members could speak to, off the cuff, for two minutes on their relationship with music. Later, alone, I returned to this quote and reflected on what music I would match to Bach and Mozart and Beethoven.

Bach Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring:  “Jesus shall remain my joy … He is the strength of my life, the delight and sun of my eyes, the treasure and wonder of my soul; therefore I will not let Jesus go, out of my heart and sight.

Mozart Concerto in C for flute and harp: The Duke of Guînes, an excellent flutist, commissioned Mozart to compose a concerto he could perform with his daughter, a harpist. The duke never paid for the piece and may never have performed it, but the result was a charming and joyous work. This piece makes me laugh and smile. Can you hear God laughing also?

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, last movement (Ode to Joy). This is considered to be one of Beethoven’s greatest works and he was almost totally deaf when he composed it.

God gave me Mendelssohn’s Song without Words so I can pray without words.

Music nourishes my soul and revives my spirit and I would find it very difficult to live in a world without it. It is my close companion: when I am happy; when I am sad; when I walk by the sea; when I am in my car; when I am on retreat; in my CLC meetings; and when I pray. At the request of several people, some time ago I compiled a list of the music that I love and use for CLC meetings, retreats and contemplative gatherings. This list is now on the new CLC website under resources.

During this time of splendid isolation I have been listening to a lot of music and thinking about what music means to us all. Many famous, well known and not so well known, composers, poets, writers, artists and philosophers have expressed their thoughts on music and what it means to them. So, to while away the many hours I now spend at home in my soul room, I decided to continue my exploration of the ways in which music affects us and matching some of these quotes to my music. Some of you may find these interesting, they may match your own feelings about music, or they may just fill in some social isolation time. So here they are.


After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the  inexpressible is music. ― Aldous Huxley

Benedictus – 2Cellos

We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams. World-losers and world-forsakers, Upon whom the pale moon gleams; Yet we are the movers and shakers, Of the world forever, it seems. Arthur O’Shaughnessy (poet)

The Canon Stirs – Pachelbel: Forever by the Sea – Michael Maxwell

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. ― Plato

You Lift Me Up – Geoff Bullock

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou

Spiegel im Spiegel – Arvo Part

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe. ― Lao Tzu

For the Beauty of the Earth – John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Gabriel’s Oboe – Yo-Yo Ma; The Servant Girl at Emmaus – Denise Levertov; The Servant Girl at Emmaus –  Diego Velazquez

Next to the word of God the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” – Martin Luther

Calming the Sea
– Ghostland, Interview With An Angel

Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music. Sergei Rachmaninov

Piano Concerto #2 in C Minor, Op.18 – Rachmaninov

Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music. George Eliot 

Concerto de Aranjuez – Rodrigo

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart. Pablo Casals

Meditation from Thais – Jules Massenet

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “Let me count the ways” and these are just a few of the innumerable ways in which God speaks to me through music. How does God speak to you?




  1. Iain Radvan Iain Radvan says:

    Thanks Ann for drawing our attention to the gift of music. I have sung in several choirs over the years so have learnt to appreciate the art of composition and performance. I don’t do a lot of listening now. When I am studying (most hours of most days) I work best in silence. but i do use music to relax with before I sleep – lately I have discovered Polish retro-jazz! On the other hand, when creating public prayer, I can’t imagine not having some music in it!

    • Ann Hoare Ann Hoare says:

      Thanks Iain. Music is also for me, a source of memory and I have only to hear certain songs e.g. those of Dusty Springfield, to remind me of my misspent youth in the swinging sixties. A particular memory however came to the surface as I began to write this, and that is of Sunday evening dinners at my grandmother’s home, listening to the Sunday hit parade on the “wireless”. My love of music began very early.

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