Every musician and singer I know usually spends some time just worshipping the Lord privately. It’s a vital part of their ability to lead a group of people in worship. We should also do that on the drums! If you’ve never tried it, let me encourage you to make this a part of your practice routine. Even though you may feel a bit strange not having another instrument playing along with you, you will discover some unique aspects to being a drummer that you’ve never experienced before. Let me give you some ideas on how to approach this powerful and inspiring aspect of worship drumming.
If you’re new to this idea of just worshipping with drums only, start by doing your normal routine of practice first. This should include working through some rudiments, working through instructional books of some kind, playing along with some of your favorite songs, and some new music you’ve never played before. Also, be sure work on groove and fill concepts. All of this should be done with a metronome or drum loops, of course. Once you’ve worked a while on what seems normal to you, then turn the “spiritual page” and focus on your playing as an expression of worship to the Lord.
I believe working on the mechanics of playing is also a spiritual thing. Everything we do, even as a technique builder, should be done to bring honor back to the Lord who has given us the skill to play. He really does help us in our work. But I realize just playing drums to worship can feel like a stretch at first.
Take time to pray for a bit before you start making a sound. It will help you focus totally on the Lord and allow your playing to become an expression to Him. As you’re praying, allow your hands and feet to move as you feel led. Don’t over think it! Just pray and play! I even sometimes imagine the Lord being in the room with me reacting to the sounds. Of course, the Lord is ALWAYS with us (actually in us), but when we start doing this it will feel different than when you’re just praying without music happening.
Read scripture as you play. YES, I actually do this sometimes. The Psalms are an excellent place to start. Pick your favorites and play drums as you read. Try reading something out of the Book of Revelations. That can be a really wild experience. Some people say to me they just don’t know what to play. I still encourage them to not think so hard. This is NOT a performance. It’s an exercise in expressing your heart while reacting to the presence of the Lord in your prayers, scripture reading, and honoring Him with your own unique creative sounds.
If you are really stuck stepping into this type of experience you could always play along with some worship music first. Then, turn off the music and keep going by yourself. It’s sort of like using training wheels to ride a bike when you’re first learning. Sing the song out loud as you continue to play the drums. Allow the song to fade out of your mind and just focus totally on the Lord and see what comes out of you. It’s okay if you just play the groove for a while and pray, talk, or sing your own song to the Lord. Release “the groanings to deep for words” – Romans 8:26. Just let worship pour out of you and see what happens.
Just play sounds randomly too! Don’t always play with a groove in mind. When I worship like this it feels like I’m painting pictures or playing a movie score. I let my prayers, reading, and expressions to the Lord come out in anyway they want to. It feels like my spirit is playing and my mind and body are responding to that.
I know all this may feel really strange at first, but think of how King David would have been worshipping the Lord alone in the fields while tending sheep. He wasn’t performing for the crowd. He was expressing his heart to the Lord with the creative gift he was given by God. We should also do this as drummers. It’s not just for singers and the other players.