World-renowned gospel singer of the early 20th century, Mahalia Jackson once said, “The mind and the voice by themselves are not sufficient.”
For a woman known as “The Queen of Gospel” who spent her life building one of the greatest musical legacies of all time by the power of her voice, this is a massive statement.
Rather than being hypocritical, Jackson’s statement reveals the heart behind her music: a heart devoted to and reliant upon God.
The Spirit of Gospel Music
In many of her quotes, Jackson is contrasting gospel music with blues music. “Gospel songs are the songs of hope,” she said. “When you sing gospel you have the feeling there is a cure for what’s wrong, but when you are through with the blues, you’ve got nothing to rest on.”
Her point, I think, is that there is something more to gospel music than the human voice alone. God’s truth, actively proclaimed and actively heard through the avenue of gospel music, gives the songs meaning and power that other types of music lack. Similarly, the Holy Spirit gives meaning and power to our lives that we would otherwise lack on our own.
Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
The Holy Spirit and Us
One of the most miraculous truths of the gospel is that God, through the Holy Spirit, comes to dwell within our hearts. Because of this our old, dead bodies are given new life and purpose through the sanctifying influence of the Spirit of God within us. Now, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the hope of growing to become more like Christ every day.
The beautiful thing about gospel music is that, ideally, it has the power of the Holy Spirit in it, just like prayer. As the Spirit intercedes for us during prayer, so too does the Spirit carry the truths and the heartfelt cries proclaimed through gospel music up to the ears of our Heavenly Father.
Without God, we are nothing. Without the guidance and sanctification of the Holy Spirit, we are empty and powerless. Thank you, Father, for the redeeming presence of Your Spirit within us. Help us to submit to His stirrings more each day, humbling ourselves to Your Mighty Grace.