This past week our new choir director, Keith Widdersheim, shared his talents by leading us in the worship song "Lord, I Need You" from Matt Maher. Before singing, Keith briefly shared how the simple prayer "Lord, I Need You" has been important to him as he and his wife, Kim, battled COVID for a few weeks. (They were both vaccinated at the time - just goes to show how serious this thing still is!) As I was gently singing along to the song I began to drift off into my own thoughts about how big of a commitment this song is asking of us and whether we're ready for that. So, this is a slightly different blog as we'll be going deeper into the words of a well known praise song.
Thank you, Keith!
The song is inspired by the hymn "Every Hour I Need Thee, Lord." (we'll sing this as our prayer today) and was written by a team of popular Christian band members including Kristy Nockels (lead singer of Passion Church), Jesse Reeves (composed "How Great is Our God"), and Maher himself. The song was written on the way the Passion conference where it would be debuted. The lyrics are deep, personal, and challenging as they open right from the gate with something that might already trip us all up...
"Lord I come, I confess"
Wow, right from the beginning I'm left in reflection about my own conversations with God. How often do we come before God in confession? Personally, I'm conflict avoidant and do whatever I can to steer clear of that - let alone bring it up to God or anyone else. I'm pretty decent at bringing up systematic grievances to God asking for forgiveness, but not my own. For example, I'll ask God for forgiveness for the ways we've abused the earth leading to climate change, or for the ways we permit racism, classism, and sexism in our culture. But, I'm not so keen to ask God for the ways I've permitted, contributed, or been complacent with those things (and the many more sins I make each day.) Yet, there can only be forgiveness if there is repentance.
"You're the one that guides my heart."
There is a funny comic out there that shows the discussions (and conflicts) between the heart and the brain suggesting that the brain is the one that thinks logically whereas the heart is inspired by wants and desires. I'm suupppeeerrrr guilty of living by my heart rather than my brain, thought I am getting a little better with that as more and more bills force me to. My heart leads me to buy new things that give me momentary happiness and quickly move on to the next thing. I'm not alone in this regard either. The whole purpose of marketing is to use psychology to convince us that we don't want this but we need this. And if you don't have it, you're missing out on what others have. So, we easily fall into this consumerist/fear-of-missing-out rabbit hole that only leads to finding happiness that is more like a vapor than something concrete. The words of Lord, I Need You invite you (and me) to ask how different might things be if restructure our heart to be more aligned with God and God's principles? In other words, what if what we want isn't prosperity but meekness? What if what we want isn't wealth but 'enough'? What if replace our desire for more to become less? What does it mean for your heart to be guided by God? What is preventing you?
"Every hour I need you."
In an interview with Matt Maher about the process he went through when writing the song he shared that this lyric was inspired by a presentation he was giving to a youth group at a summer camp. He believes that in times of crisis or despair that most (faithful) people will turn to God for help or solace. But Maher challenged the youth to lean deeper into their relationship with God until they are so blown away by the overwhelming love that God has for us that they need God in sadness, joy, confusion, and clarity. The lyric isn't about literally needing God within the scope of time but through the full spectrum of our emotions. How is your prayer life when it come to God? Is it something you do frequently or something that is done sparingly? Praying is a wonderful habit to get into but I think for many it's daunting of not knowing where to start or even "how to pray." I wonder if for some its daunting because they've been most exposed to prayer through the lens of a pastoral prayer which are often eloquent, thoughtful, and varied. Therefore, those that might not be as strong in written or oral speaking might feel that their prayer isn't 'fancy' or 'pretty' enough for God's ear. But, I think that's silly. My favorite prayer of the last year was when one of the Ark kiddos (preschool class I teach) led us in prayer for the end of our class and bumbled their way through saying "God, thank you for cookies and for friends. I LOVE them!" and then went into a giggling fit. Amen to that prayer! If you don't know where to start with praying - try saying a simple "Thank you, Lord" when you wake up and when you go to bed or when you arrive safely at your location. Try saying grace before each meal. It quickly becomes apparent of the many simply ways we can thank God "ever hour."
"Holiness is Christ in Me"
January of any new year is a difficult time for many of us as we're encouraged to look at all the ways we are flawed and encouraged to change them. Weigh too much? Lose it! No longer as fit as you once were? Get active? Eat too much? Diet time! Bad at spending money? Create a budget! Of course, these are all positive ambitions and I encourage all of them and more - but - habits don't develop over night and breaking long standing habits certainly takes longer than a day. That's why a majority of us fail to ever achieve the goals we set out for ourselves early in the year which can lead to a negative self image and low self esteem. "Holiness is Christ in Me" is Maher's favorite line of the whole song. When asked about it, he described it this way "once I wrote those lyrics down the whole thing changed for me. I felt emotional realizing that God looks at me and sees his Son. The love that God had for Christ - God has for me. Every time I sing that lyrics I don't just sing it - I declare it - for anyone that needs to hear it." (Interview here) So I want to affirm Maher's words here. You are not your weight. You are not your greatest achievement (no matter how long ago that was.) You are not your greatest mistake. You are not your addictions. You are not your failings. You are a child of God. Full stop. God looks at you with the twinkle that every parent has when their child runs up to them after preschool lets out each day. God loves you and is proud of you. God forgives you and believes in you. While I certainly encourage you to try to become better each and everyday..I encourage you to redefine what "good enough" is for you to know that you've already achieved that at your birth because of Christ. Take a moment to smile at yourself in the mirror. You need it. Then share that smile with someone else today until they start smiling too. Let the whole world know through your love that Christ is in you.
The church says - AMEN.
This has been fun to consider how music can be dissected to consider just how potent these words are that we sing each week in church. Maybe we'll do more of these in the future! Let me know your thoughts on that. With that said let's shift to closing in prayer! As mentioned this praise song is inspired by a hymn so we'll honor the history behind it by lifting up its equally powerful words to God as we close out this time of reflection and return to our days. I've got a few options below based on your personal taste. Lyrics at the bottom.
This one is best for lyrics and has a little "twang" to it.
If you're looking for a more "choral" version of it you can listen to this one
ORRRR my personal favorite ;)
1 I need Thee ev'ry hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Ev'ry hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
2 I need Thee ev'ry hour,
Stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r
When Thou art nigh. [Refrain]
3 I need Thee ev'ry hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain. [Refrain]
4 I need Thee ev'ry hour, Teach me Thy will; And Thy rich promises In me fulfill. [Refrain]