When it’s hard to pray, are religious songs OK?

Question: Sometimes it’s hard for me to recite prayers or Psalms, but I have no problem whatsoever singing out loud to certain religiously-based songs, in many cases, Psalms that have been set to music. Is this an acceptable form of prayer and worship?

It’s useful to try to define some terms. Using dictionary.com as a basis, here are some definitions for WORSHIP:

noun: (a) The reverent love and devotion accorded to G-d. (b) The religious forms by which this love is expressed.

verb: To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion.

Here are some definitions for PRAYER:

noun: (1) A reverent petition made to G-d. (2) An act of communication with G-d, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving. (3) A specially worded form used to address G-d. (4) A fervent request.

While there is definitely overlap of the meanings, PRAYER also has the connotation of a REQUEST than you make to G-d for something that you need, such a safety, health, income, forgiveness, a sign from Above, etc. In WORSHIP, the emphasis is not on communicating your own tangible needs, but rather you open up your heart to express to G-d the love and devotion that YOU FEEL for Him. This is based on your desire put aside your liming physical perspective, and concentrate on a higher spirituality with a mixture of awe and reverence. (Chassidim especially through the generations have composed many beautiful and stirring devotional songs to express love and longing of the soul for G-d.)

Your singing out loud is probably an expression and communication to G-d of the happiness you feel in loving and adoring Him. But how many of your own personal needs do you express to Him as requests while you are singing? Your prayers for your needs are probably better expressed with an approach of humility and a feeling of emptiness – that something is missing or might come to be missing, which you need G-d to provide for you. For that, this paraphrased advice from the Mishna is very appropriate: “Do not approach to pray except with a concentrated and serious mindset.” But of course at the same time you can sing for joy in G-d’s closeness and for happiness in your faith that He hears all prayers.