Music for Practicing God’s Presence

“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” —J.S. Bach

Tens of thousands of Japanese Christians trace their conversions—or at least their initial curiosity about Christianity—to Johann Sabastian Bach.

Multiple articles have reported this phenomenon, and one explains the reason as this: “Bach’s music reflects the perfect beauty of created order to which the Japanese mind is receptive.”1

The Japanese are not alone in being spiritually aroused and affected by Bach’s music—countless others have sensed the Holy Spirit speaking through his compositions. Of course, Bach is in a class by himself, but other music, too, that is composed out of a heart of faith can have a similar effect on people, believers and nonbelievers alike.

Music has had a profound influence on me personally, and I often read, pray, and write with music playing. I pick the type of music depending on my mood—hymns/praise choruses, classical music, or contemplative. Spiritual songs about heaven can be particularly effecting. On the whole, good music elevates the heart and mind in a unique and powerful way.

I encourage you to develop your own list of songs that uplift, refresh, and speak to your heart. These should be the songs that call your thoughts upward, reminding you of God’s presence. A few of my personal favorites are below.2

(Top picks are in bold)

Hymns & Choruses

  • Be Still, My Soul
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  • Fairest Lord Jesus
  • Give Me Jesus
  • In Christ Alone
  • It Is Well with My Soul

Other favorites:
Be Thou My Vision
Before the Throne of God Above
Blessed Assurance
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
He Hideth My Soul
He Will Hold Me Fast
How Great Thou Art
I Need Thee Every Hour
Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting
My Jesus, I Love Thee
O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
O Worship the King
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
Take My Life and Let It Be
The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23), by Keith Green
We Bow Down
You Are My All in All

Classical Tradition

  • S. Bach—Orchestral Suite No. 3
  • S. Bach—Cantata No. 29
  • S. Bach—Cantata No. 140
  • A. Mozart—Requiem
  • A. Mozart—Symphony No. 40
  • A. Mozart—Piano Concerto No. 21

Other favorites:
Pachelbel—Canon in D
Albinoni—Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ
Vivaldi—The Four Seasons
Handel—Messiah, Water Music
Additional songs from J. S. Bach—Mass in B Minor, St. Matthew Passion, Brandenburg Concertos, Double Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, Well-Tempered Clavier)
Beethoven—Symphony Nos. 5, 7, 9
Chopin—Nocturnes, Preludes
Gabriel Faure—Requiem
Rachmaninoff—Piano Concerto No. 2
Henryk Górecki—Symphony No. 3

Contemplative

  • Max Richter—On the Nature of Daylight
  • Max Richter—The Consolations of Philosophy
  • Max Richter—She Finds the Child
  • Max Richter—On Reflection

Other favorites:
Liquid Mind


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Footnotes

  1. A few sources include http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-95/bach-in-japan.html; https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/how-bach-is-evangelizing-japan-99101; and https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/01/bach-and-the-gospel-in-japan.
  2. This list is adapted from Kenneth Boa and Jenny Abel, A Guide to Practicing God’s Presence (Atlanta, GA: Trinity House Publishers, 2018), 135–136.