1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. [Psalm 95:1-2]
Praising God can take many forms and singing is simply one way to express our praise. But when we praise him by singing we should be focused on God, engaging with him, freely expressing our joy and happiness that we are in his presence, and allowing our hearts to engage with him.
Having recently moved to Germany, one thing has struck me as distinctly different between church in Germany and church in Britain. In Germany, traditionally, people sit down in church when singing! Why, I am not sure. However, coming from a British church culture where I have never (or rarely) sat down whilst singing, I find it very odd and a little uncomfortable. It is of course possible to sing praise whilst sitting, but I find this much easier to do when standing.
Apparently, in Denmark, they also sit down to sing, and I agree with this author that it is not necessary to always stand when singing. There can be good reasons to sit sometimes, however, I would present an argument that, on the whole, standing is better. How do I define better? In this case I mean that one can sing more freely, i.e. one feels less constrained when standing rather than sitting and one is better able to engage fully with the act of praising our maker.
Scientifically and physiologically, good posture is obviously important. Constriction in the airways and the diaphragm would hinder singing and make it a strain on the singer. However, although most professional singers do stand when singing, there are many occurrences of professionals sitting to sing. According to a trained opera singer friend of mine, when sitting one must sit upright with straight back in order to sing properly.
Is there any biblical guidance on whether we should sit or stand when singing? There are many verses about singing as a means to praise God, the psalms are full of references about singing, and other verses in both Old and New Testament encourage us to sing and praise God. However, there is no reference I have found that says anything about sitting or standing as a posture for singing.
Various verses that state we should praise God with our whole being, spirit, mind, body, and in particular with our hearts. Praise him with all of your heart, i.e. passionately and with feeling.
…Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. [Ephesians 5:19]
…Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. [James 5:13]
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. [John 4:24]
…I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. [1 Corinthians 14:15]
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. [Psalm 134:2]
If we look at other times when we engage with a musical event, it is quite common to see people standing waving their arms around and jumping about. Just look at any modern pop concert where the audience is ecstatic in the presence of the latest teen idol (and could be described as worshiping the singer) – they do not sit mildly in their seats. At a more reserved classical concert, or opera, people do have more of a tendency to stay in their seats, however at events such as “The Last Night of the Proms” the same joyous and highly active behaviour can also be seen. Similarly, take a football match, when your favoured team scores, do you sit and politely thinking “oh well done”, or do you jump up, wave your hands and cheer?
One of my favourite examples of someone fully praising God with all their being is that of David in 2 Samuel,
Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. [2 Samuel 6:14-15]
So David said …, “It was before the Lord, … Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. …” [2 Samuel 6:21:22]
Clearly, this was heartfelt praise and David was dancing and singing before his Lord, without worrying what other people thought of him. He was thinking only of engaging joyfully with God. So much so that he upset his wife by dancing in his underwear. Now, I don’t think I really want to turn up to church in only my underpants, however this example of praising God and not worrying about what the person next to us is thinking is certainly a good example to follow.
If we look the the psalms, as the primary biblical example of praise, clearly praising God is a joyful and noisy thing to do,
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 Praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 Praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals. [Psalm 150]
and again in Psalm 47
1 Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy. [Psalm 47:1]
I would assert that it is natural, when freed from traditions and conventions, for people to engage in joyous praise and worship with their whole body, and this is easier if not seated. I want to praise God, singing with my voice, my body, my mind, my spirit and my heart, passionately and with joy.