Does the Bible say anything about chanting? Should a Christian chant?
Chanting has so many variations that it is difficult to answer directly whether a Christian should chant. Like so many things not specifically defined in the Bible, the answer comes down to motive.
The variations of chanting include cheers like at sporting events, basic two-note repetitive singing, simple and complex melodies and harmonies, and various forms of speech, language, battle cries, protest shouts, and singing.
The Bible records many songs of worship, calls to worship, and prayers (for example, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, and many Psalms), but does not tell us how to sing or express these prayers. Psalm 95:1–2 tells us to make a joyful noise in honor of God. In a technical sense, the exact type of noise is not specified. We do know there are songs that displease God. For example, God said He would no longer listen to the Israelites' songs after they turned from Him (Amos 5:23; 6:5). Amos also records that God punished Israel by taking away music (Amos 8:3, 10), as He also did in Ezekiel 26:13.
Music itself is neither right nor wrong, honoring or dishonoring to God. It becomes so based on the lyrical content, the motive of those performing, and the subject or object of their singing. We can apply the same principle to chanting. Chanting to honor God, honors God. Chanting to appear righteous, to enter into some sort of trance state, or to say a mantra repetitively, is not honoring to God (see Matthew 6:5–7, for example).
Chanting a song or a prayer in honor of God, to show Him thankfulness or to worship, to seek His direction or help, can be a beautiful expression. Some hymns, such as “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” were originally used as a chant.
We know that chanting is common in some Eastern religions such as Buddhism, in some practices that originated there (such as yoga), and in some Native American rituals. Words and motives used in pagan religions are unbiblical. When a person or persons chant to connect with evil spirits, that is harmful. Also spiritually dangerous is chanting, singing, or repeating mantras to open the mind to undefined spiritual influences.
Catholics sometimes use chanting in worship, and other liturgical traditions use chanting, such as Lutherans. The Asperges, a chant based on Scripture, is biblical. However, the Ave Maria and Salve Regina, are not biblical as they are prayers to Mary, which is unbiblical.
The motives, lyrical content, and object or subject of a chant must be defined and explored. When its honor or dishonor of God can be discovered, then the chant can be deemed right or wrong.
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