Friday, January 8, 2010

Worship lyric misconceptions #1

I"m going to start a series of blogs on errors in worship music lyrics. Now, if you know anything about this blog, that commits me to absolutely nothing beyond this post. :)

#1 "We're desperate for You,. . .we need your presence more than anything. . . Won't you come and fill this place. . . " (all real worship music lyrics from recent songs)

I"ll call this one the "Omni-present error", as in, God is Omni-present, and we're singing to Him, right?

Here's some verses that show how God is omni-present (present everywhere at the same time because He exists inside and outside of time and in some way, everywhere all the time).

2 Chronicles 6:17-19

17Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David.

18"But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you,

Psalm 33:14
from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,

Psalm 139:7-12

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

I know this is a hard thing to get our heads around. My kids have alot of trouble understanding that they can pray to God all the time, not just when we're reading the bible at night. I think we all forget that God is always there from time to time.

Now, It is good and right for usk to ask God to "come" in a certain way or for a certain purpose. Such as "come in your power" if you're in the middle of a difficult situation, or "come in truth" if we need to be shown what is right on an issue. So, I guess I wish more songs would ask for those things instead of just asking for the presence of God, which we have.

As a side note: I think we do often (I know I do) neglect to mention and remind folks that "God is here" when we meet together. We could go a whole Sunday without realizing that if we're not careful. That's probably why some of the songs mentioned at the top were written. But, we can do a better job. . the old worship orders and liturgies do that. . . . we can also write better songs today that explain what we mean in a clearer way.


ps. I know "Breathe" is one of the most popular worship songs of the last 20 years, and I know that you can understand "I'm desperate for You" in many different ways. But, it seems like the demeanor I see that song led in. . . is one of being desperate for God's presence. . . . which we definitely aren't. That's like being desperate for skin on my body.


Doc said...

> Won't you come and fill this place.

I always took that song to be talking about the spiritual place of the singer. So I take that line to be something like "please fill my heart where I am".

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it and rationalizing because I like the tune so much.

Rich said...

I like your post and insight. I blog about worship at if yer interested...

aaron said...


yes, I like that tune as well. . . and I probably should have specified, I'm not trying to necessarily "black ball" any of these songs. In future posts I hope to critique a few songs that we actually play.

I like your interpretation of that song, and I"ll sing it that way next chance I get. In these cases I'll discuss, I"m doing just that. . .helping with the proper way to understand such concepts, hopefully. Surely, "Breathe" can be understood in some profound ways as well. But, don't understand it in the "we don't have You,. . .we're desperate to get You" sense.

In the case of Tree63, I would just say. . "let's not understand that song to say that God isn't here and now that we ask, He comes and fills the room".

Danny said...

I'm going to play Vineyard's advocate here.

This is the air I breathe; your Holy presence living in me

Maybe this is a generous interpretation, but in equating God's presence with the air I think the issue of His omnipresence is dealt with sufficiently.

And regarding your complaint about our desperation and its necessity, it seems to me that the second half of the verse mitigates your argument at least to some degree.

This is my daily bread, your very word spoken to me

Clearly, we are instructed to be desperate for God's word (1 Peter 2:2), and so in that sense, the chorus lyric is appropriate.

aaron said...

To each his own. . . . .

Yeah, I definitely can't black ball "Breathe" because I've led it many times in the past.

Again, my complaint there is that when it's led. . . something about the way that song comes out is "we need You here, you're not here". . .etc.

I agree, Danny, that the song can be understood the way you said, or even differently than that.

The question is. . . are worship leaders "going there" and is it worth it to roll the dice, do all of that work, make up for vagueness. . .etc. . . or should we just write better songs?

Probably a case by case, I guess.
Again, have no fear everyone, I'll get to songs that I actually lead.

Also, a good takeaway here is; the way you lead the songs or write them, you can accentuate different things and bring different things into the spotlight, diminishing things that might lead to misunderstanding (since poetry, by essence is open to more than one interpretation at times).