Prophetic Worship School: Importance for Youth
1 Samuel 19:18-24 reads:
"But David fled and escaped, and came to Samuel in Ramatha, and told him all that Saul had done to him: and he and Samuel went and dwelt in Najoth. And it was told Saul by some, saying: Behold David is in Najoth in Ramatha. So Saul sent officers to take David: and when they saw a company of prophets prophesying, and Samuel presiding over them, the spirit of the Lord came also upon them, and they likewise began to prophesy." The following two notes are included in the Douay-Rheims translation:  "Najoth": It was probably a school or college of prophets, in or near Ramath under the direction of Samuel.
 "Prophesying": That is, singing praises to God by a divine impulse. God was pleased on this occasion that both Samuel's messengers and himself should experience the like impulse, that he might understand, by this instance of the divine power, how vain are the designs of man against him whom God protects.
Prophetic Worship School? This series of articles is intended as some kind of school of prophets, specifically prophetic worship leaders. This, as noted in the above verses and notes, is a calling from God. It is a gifting and/or ministry ("by divine impulse"), like being a prophet, like the gift of healing or the word of knowledge. Samuel was doing it, ("presiding over them") and later, David would. David started as a worshiper, with high gifts that delivered Saul through his music (1 Sam. 16:23); later, he would lead all of God's people in worship in the Temple. Some people have received the gift of healing, but don't have a healing ministry or even higher, the office of healing like Fr. Fernando Suarez, which took him all over the world, and was what he is still known for. "Are all prophets? ...have all the grace of healing?" (1 Cor. 12:29-30) That is, do all have the office or ministry of being a prophet, the ministry or office of healing? Whatever the case may be, whether a person has received the gift of leading worship, whether they just picked up the guitar and someone asked them to "lead worship for our group" - whether the person was born to be a prophetic worship leader (as a major part of their mission in life), these articles are meant to empower, train and assist in some way, as we seek to glorify the Lord and bring His Good News throughout the whole earth.
I know that I had to be purified, had to give up all the rock and roll and folk music, etc. I was into before the Lord would entrust me with a ministry of music! I might have had a gift, but it sure had to be purified.
May this be, as the word נָוִית, translated as "Najoth," means, a "habitation," or more specifically, "a dwelling place of prophets." (link) May it lift high the Name of Jesus and give God all the glory, as the word "Ramah" indicates.
The Worship Leader
In the recent past, in the Church there has been a rediscovery of the worship leader. This has come about through the awakening of a new sound of praise and worship. Just as secular music requires a leader to sing and direct the flow of a song and/or act, so too does praise and worship. Yet, it is clearly not an imitation of rock and roll, or any other form of worldly music. This is one of the largest problems with so-called "praise and worship music" today- as Billy Corgan, the strange leader of the 90's dark rock group "Smashing Pumpkins" wrote, "Make better music...stop copying U2." (link) While U2's Bono is a professed believer, and while their music certainly contains Scripture ("40") and Christian themes, they admit themselves that they are far from a praise and worship group, or even a Christian music group. Groups like U2 should be taking notes from praise and worship groups, not the other way around.
We felt the Lord gave us a name for our music ministry and witnessing outreach: "Missionary News." If you think about it, this is what the worship leader is supposed to bring- prophetic worship is about bringing the Gospel wherever we go, through the privileged mode of music. Music, as we have learned from the hippy music scene of the 1960s, is a powerful way that a generation can bring change to culture- with a sound, and a message.
True worship leaders, good worship leaders are rare, especially in our Catholic Church. This, I propose, is primarily because of a lack of training, and therefore a lack of understanding of the role of a worship leader. It is certainly not just a song-singer (itself a Biblical role in the Temple). It is a missionary calling, just as much as it is to preach the Gospel- in fact, it is a calling to preach the Gospel in a different way.
Worship leaders today, if they develop their gifts and callings by God's grace, are like the new circuit riders leading praise and worship all over the world, whether it's a small group of Hindus and Christian teachers, and two deacons in Andhra Pradesh, India, or a huge congregation or stadium gathering.
The confusion between singers and worship leaders can be justly illustrated through the comical example of when Pope Benedict XVI came to Dunwoody seminary in Yonkers, NY, and Kelly Clarkson and Matt Maher both sang "for him." Kelly Clarkson sang the Ave Maria, as well as "Since You've Been Gone," and Matt Maher led praise and worship. He looked at the crowd and decided to lead everyone in "Here I Am, Lord," because he knew it would get people praying and worshiping. God bless him. The ironic part is, while everyone that was there could note the difference between the two artists "sets," they were both put on the list as "Christian acts" before the Pope spoke. One made sense, the other didn't.
This doesn't mean there isn't a place for Christian music, or concerts, etc. It means, there is a marked difference between that, and authentic praise and worship.
People are drawn to anointed worship. Many of the old songs carry the anointing and the Word (why? because they are mostly Scripture, and totally focused on Jesus). Fr. Fernando's favourite was "Come, Now is the Time to Worship," which was sung at his ordination. The song itself is an invitation to encounter God- what missionary news, prophetic worship leading is all about.
The Youth Need Authentic Praise and Worship
Lee Anne's spiritual director called her once, and said she wanted to come and stay with her, because they were supposed to go together to an event in Hamilton. It was a praise and worship event at Copps Coliseum, led by an anointed Catholic praise and worship leader from Ottawa, a missionary lay evangelist. At the event, her spiritual director said, "this is what the youth need."
She had taught Lee Anne about coming under a daily anointing of the Holy Spirit through praise and worship, as a means of grace in her life. She had taught her how to bring others into the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the gift of tongues, and how praise and worship in a group is all about bringing the group under the Holy Spirit's anointing.
The youth today are obviously lost, and searching for something real, something beyond this world. The pandemic, if anything, has increased this desire for something beyond this world. Youth don't trust the structure anymore- they need people to bring them into the Presence of God, where they can feel His love.
It is a true gift to lead people, especially the youth, in true praise and worship. It is one beautiful gift to be able to worship just you and the Lord, in the Secret Place of His presence, but really another (that requires training and experience) to lead others into that moment with the Lord.
How can we bring the youth, or any group under the anointing if we don't know what it's like to enter into His presence ourselves in the Secret Place? We can use the things the Lord teaches us on our own in the hidden place of prayer. We experienced this at a small chapel in the Philippines when Fr. Fernando asked us to accompany one of the seminarians and help with a youth group. We sang simple songs, and gave little witnesses to them about our own experience of God's presence, inviting them to open their hearts and their hands. It was when we were singing "Come Into My Heart," that the anointing really fell. Afterwards, a woman came up to us from the back of the chapel, one of the members of the chapel prayer group. She said that when she heard the children singing, she felt a warmth come all over one side of her body, taking away all the pain. She was healed as the children of God sang praises to Him- the power of praise and worship with the youth. "Don't you know that the Scriptures say, 'Children and infants will sing praises'?” (Matt. 21:16)
St. Francis of Assisi taught the following to his friars, regarding preaching, which can be applied to our topic of worship leading:
"And in any preaching you do, admonish the people concerning repentance, and that nobody can be saved except he who receives the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord. And when It is sacrificed on the altar by the priest or borne anywhere, let all the people on bended knees render praise, glory and honor to the True and Living Lord God." (link)
It's about the Eucharist- it's about bringing a group of people to repentance in the Secret Place, confessing their sins in a one-on-one, heart-to-heart experience with Jesus even though they're in a group setting. Only then can they be freed up to give true "praise, glory and honor" to Jesus.
The Secret Place
We were reflecting on "the secret place" (Ps. 91) when we were staying on a remote island in the Philippines, when the anointing fell on us, and Lee Anne began receiving these words, like a poem:
"You open doors that no one can close/
Open up the doors that no one knows. Doors of my heart, intimate place/ Let me fly on wings of grace..."
I immediately grabbed the phone and starting typing the words as she got them. We didn't change anything- just added the music. I tried to receive the new sound, the melody, etc. prayerfully. Praise God, out came one of the most beautiful songs God has given us, "The Secret Place." For us, it's more than a song, but is also packed with teaching about praise and worship. The chorus says it all, "just one moment with You, and all things change/ one moment in the Secret Place..." If we, as worship leaders, can get people into this encounter, there's no telling what the Lord will do in that moment.
See, it's one thing to lead a bunch of songs- even if you go from fast to meditative (another story entirely). It's another to have your spirit eyes and ears open to try to see and hear exactly how the Lord wants to bring this particular group of people into His arms. A shepherd knows the terrain of one field or mountain vs. another, knows the difference between one sheep and another...
To close this first article, we reflect again on the opening Scripture verse. Recall that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory." (CCC 2639) The effect is union with the Holy Spirit: "By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits." (ibid.) It is signified in the meaning of the Hebrew "Ramah" and "Najoth." The prophets and worship leaders are to make their dwelling place (Najoth) the secret place, where we give God all the glory (Ramah), a place where Samuel heard his name being called, and his prophetic mission was received.
This is where we are supposed to go, each day, to receive God's mission for us, by entering into His presence through praise and worship. This is where the youth, and all of God's children, will receive their vocations, missions, identity in Christ, freedom from addiction, and healing of the heart. Our praise and worship, and the place where we lead it, can be the place that David ran to from Saul, a place of refuge and protection. Even when Saul's army arrived in Ramah to take David, the prophetic anointing came on the warriors so that they starting praising the Lord and prophesying as well. Praise and worship can stop violence in our schools, wars between countries...it is the anointing that breaks the yoke. (Isaiah 10:27)
More to come.
In the Father's Love,
Dan Devine, M. Div
"Let us say that the Lord Jesus is the Lord, let us praise Jesus, loudly! Jesus is Lord! There are no others."
(Pope Francis, Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Renewal in the Holy Spirit Movement, 03 July 2015, link).