How to Cultivate Your Own Spiritual Soundtrack

Whatever form it takes — whether lectio divina or the Liturgy of the Hours — praying with Scripture can bring us light and the peace of Christ.

Franciscans pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Franciscans pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (photo: Dominika Zara / Shutterstock)

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, owning music seemed to hold a greater value than it does today. Even in those decades, I can still remember Mom and Dad’s records — the ones we would have on in the background when we were playing or doing dishes, and even the one record mom said helped put me to sleep as a baby. These are the vinyl records my parents may have chosen at garage sales or collected over time and were picked with a different level of selectivity and commitment than streamed free music on a phone. Of course, we had radios and cassette tapes too, but there was something special about playing vinyl records in those days.

In the mid to late 90s, our family music-listening culture upgraded to a multi-disk CD player, with certain CDs finding a semi-permanent home in a disk slot. With physical music storage, a music library had a more defined size and set of features than streaming services now provide. And particular moments might call for well-chosen CDs, be it a calming moment in the day or something a bit more energetic. 

Entering into the new millennium with a CD-listening culture, this form of media storage followed me into my college and grad-school days. Before the proliferation of noise-canceling headphones and newer media platforms, CDs might be heard playing in dorm rooms and a spring break road trip might include a curated playlist burned onto a CD. 

Within this turn-of-the-millennium setting, I even recall a particular ice-breaker question a friend asked some of us at a graduate school party at the end of an academic year. It was something along the lines of, “What’s your current soundtrack?” Coming from a music-appreciating family culture, I liked this question but had a hard time answering it. I recall one of the priest-professors, probably surprised by the impromptu icebreaker, answering with, “Gregorian chant.”

While I don’t think I ever really answered my friend’s question that day, it has given me something to ponder years later in a bit more of a spiritual sense. If you’re going to have a “life soundtrack” or even a “soundtrack” for a particular day or set of days it seems worthwhile to cultivate your list with candidates worthy of the title. Perhaps, continuing in a spiritual sense, the closest thing to cultivating a “life soundtrack” or even a “soundtrack of the day” would be spending time praying with Scripture. 

Praying with Scripture can take different forms, such as lectio divina or the Liturgy of the Hours or even just praying with a Psalm, but there is something about the daily rhythm of the Liturgy of the Hours that lends itself to creating matter for an interior “playlist” of sorts. I was introduced to the Liturgy of the Hours in my school years through my parents’ devotional life and prayer meetings they would have attended, but I didn’t learn how to pray it on my own until college. There’s something about the repetition of praying the Psalms and other Scriptures over time that it enters into your interior life. Reading and spending time praying with the Scriptures from the Mass of the day or really any Scripture can also form this inner playlist.

In seeking a theme of sorts, one might see what resonates in a particular reading and seek to interiorize and live out that Scripture in one’s own life, coming back to it throughout the day. Or perhaps a particular moment or situation in the day will bring to mind a passage from Scripture, from past times of prayer, that encourages or carries a certain light and grace to the individual.

While one might argue that the true soundtrack of the soul is the silence in which God is present to the soul, in the midst of a world of sight and sound, words can also be helpful tools in spiritual growth. 

Of course, “hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19) can form part of this inner playlist, as well, and they too can assist in the committing to and recalling of Scripture from memory. Prayer, the lifting of the mind and heart to God, can take place throughout the foreground of one’s daily activities, drawing often from this “spiritual soundtrack.” 

In cultivating a habit of prayer with Scripture one might hope, regardless of what’s happening on a particular day, to echo the words of the Blessed Mother, prayed by the Church at Vespers (Evening Prayer) each day as part of the Liturgy of the Hours: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior … holy is his name.” May we make the effort to seek God in prayer that our souls too may proclaim his greatness, and make glorifying him the soundtrack of our lives!