Singing With the Spirit
“...be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” Ephesians 5:18-19
Crafting songs for worship is a process of inspiration, collaboration, and cultivation as the songwriter edits their ideas in community. But sometimes, an artist may be moved by the Holy Spirit to bring a prophetic word of encouragement to build up the Church. When the words come to a songwriter, they can come out as sung rhymes. Kim Allen first discovered her gift as she improvised on the piano after a prayer, her sermon notes sitting against the music stand. Inspired by a “nudge,” she felt moved to sing. Unscripted, unrehearsed, she sang and played a word of encouragement to the congregation based on the sermon notes she had taken. At the next service, she started to write things down that rhymed. A parishioner came up to her afterwards and told her that the song she had played ministered to her. She thought, “that wasn’t a song! It was just a free flow thing.” But at home, she and Keith talked about it and he said, “you know...I’ve heard about prophetic songs. I think that’s what happened.”
Kim started to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s nudges, and Keith encouraged her as she developed her prophetic gift. Kim, Keith, and the church’s worship leader developed signals and found a space in the service where Kim could come up and sing a song if she felt moved by the Holy Spirit to do so. Trust and having a plan were integral to the process because Kim never wanted to distract the church in their worship. As she learned to listen and obey the Spirit’s prompting, she noticed that the words that came always had a phrase, point, or confirmation connected to the sermon. “My husband is extremely gifted at preaching; he is poetic when he preaches. Sometimes things just sing!”
Responding to the Holy Spirit in song grew Kim’s awareness of his presence in other areas of her ministry. “I think that once you know how the Holy Spirit speaks to you, you are more in tune in your prayer life,” she says. “I trust the Holy Spirit will speak when I pray over somebody, when I am talking to somebody, and when I’m counseling.”
As Kim has grown to trust the Lord, she has grown in obedience, being willing to take risks and respond faithfully to God. Before she shares a song in a service, she prays, “Holy Spirit, if this is from you, may we all hear this; if not shut it down. I don’t want to do it if it’s about me.” Taking these risks, she has learned that “even if you accidentally step out wrong, God will redeem all that and just loves the fact that we’re willing to do it.” Her obedience honors God, and she is willing to do it even if she looks foolish.
Kim’s story speaks to me in two ways. First, as a challenge to make room for people to respond to the Holy Spirit in our services. Second, as an encouragement to take bold risks as God leads: “When you realize that on the other side of that risk is the possibility that people will come to know Jesus...it makes it worth it.”
The Rev. Kim Kirkland Allen is a published songwriter, professional singer, and published author who seeks to build the church through music and communication. She serves alongside her husband, the Very Rev. Canon B. Keith Allen at Christ Church of Vero Beach, FL as deacon and Women’s Ministry Director.
Catherine Miller is the organist at Trinity Anglican Church in Thomasville, GA. She is a pianist and songwriter. She works with the international arts ministry United Adoration to find, gather, equip and send out artists to use their gifts and abilities to worship God and build up His Kingdom. More of her work can be found on the blog she coauthors with her husband, Henry.