When I started worshiping God in a new way, using written songs and then allowing God to write the song of the moment, I suddenly realized that my language was limited. I could feel the stirring in my heart, but there were no words to express the feelings. Sometimes I would stand at the microphone for the entire worship time and sing one short spontaneous song for a brief moment simply because I wanted to only sing what I heard in my heart and that thing must somehow honor God. Because of this overwhelming sense of poverty, I began to ask God for the language of worship. Along the way, almost 10 years now, I have learned a few things about finding words that match the music in order to bring pleasure to the King.
First, I began to pray. That’s always a good place to start! James said, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.’ The Bible became the starting point. It is easy to find words of worship in the Psalms. I began to look at the Psalms in a new way recognizing them as worship not just from an era in time but as worship for all times. While that might seem simple, and even a no-brainer, there are times when we read the scripture and categorize its words as being current culture irrelevant.
Next I started using the poetry magnets that were popular at the time. My refrigerator was covered in words and poems. It helped me to recognize that love poetry is a way to express my heart to the Lord. Poetry is painting with words creating colorful images on the canvas of our minds. While the poetry I wrote probably never was used during our worship time, it created new ways of thinking with words that opened a new pathway in my mind and heart for worship. I also began to read love poetry starting with the Song of Solomon. The intimacy captured in the love poetry of the Bible is deep and rich and demonstrates the heart of God toward his people, the Bride, and the heart of the Bride toward her lover, the King. One time, I found a one line poem on the inside of a Dove candy wrapper that, when tweaked a bit, became an intimate song to the Lord connecting the hearts of the worshipers to the King of Glory.
Another source for finding the language of worship is in the songs already written. This could be the hymns of the past to the worship songs of today. Sometimes the words of these songs are for the moment, even if that music score is not being played at the time or if the music is from a bygone era. We would be singing a known song, and the band would start a ‘selah time’ using the same chord progression, and then I’d hear inside my heart the words of a different song. At first I’d think we need to do that song next, but I came to realize that those words were for the now, not for the later. I discovered that if I sang those words at the time I heard them, they had an impact that they wouldn’t create if I waited. I’ve heard worship leaders speak ill of the hymns of the past, but hymnals are the history of worship as we know it today. We can learn from Martin Luther who took a song sung in the beer halls of Germany and created ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God.’ We can hear the yearning in the hearts of believers when we sing, ‘Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me; Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.’ We should not throw away the old but learn from the past; those who have gone on before us have left a record for us from which we may glean.
The last thing I’d like to offer is the value of the gift of interpretation. In my quest for language I began to speak in tongues a lot. Whether it was during a worship time or during my prayer time, I used my prayer language all the time. While this is strengthening my inner man, as is promised in the scripture, I needed to know what I was praying; I needed to know the words to what I was speaking. This was especially important during worship. I began to speak or sing in tongues (often softly to God) and I could feel the presence of God, but in order to bring words that would connect the heart of the listener to the heart of God, I needed English language. As I began to sing or even speak the interpretation of what I was hearing, I began to have the language of worship. Another aspect to the gift of interpretation is listening as the instruments prophesy. I am blessed to worship with musicians of extraordinary talent who allow the Lord to move them while they play their instruments. I have heard piano, bass, and guitar licks speak scripture, and drum cadences echo repeatedly words honoring God. Jesus said He has given us eyes to see and ears to hear; I choose to believe Him. As I believe that I can hear, I discover that I can hear and that is the beginning of the gift of interpretation that is available to the people who are called by His name.
There are probably more ways than these to discover a treasure of language for worship. I pray these starting places will be helpful for those of you whose hearts are turned toward Him and who have a desire to speak or sing words of love to Him. I ask that He will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you will know Him better and that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.
March 5, 2008