Songwriting: Singing Your Prayers
It’s easy, as a worship leader or singer within the body of the church, to become consumed with the notion of writing songs. It usually starts out somewhat admirable: You’ve been immersed in the culture of hymns and worship songs each week…and, eventually, a verse or chorus or even a phrase trickles out of your mind and to your guitar or piano. You play the song for someone and hear “hey, thats pretty good!” …and the quest within is lit to write a song for God.
You pray to God “please let any song I write be for your glory – and not for me. let me write songs that please you.” It is a prayer fitting of David, himself.
Then, Chris Tomlin smacks us all with a reality of how popular a song like “Good, Good Father” can become. Its on radio…its on every Facebook post…we pretend that we don’t like it (mainly because we wish we wrote it.) …and we begin writing feverishly.
“I’m going to write the next ‘Good Good Father’!”
We could insert any song in this scenario. We could rewind almost any decade as well. At some point, the songwriter may lose his or her way and forget the goal. The goal of writing for God may become dressed in several different ways:
- “I’m writing songs for my new album”
- “I want to write a song that people would want to hear on the radio.”
- “I want to write the next (insert similar song here)”
- “I want to write a song that (insert artist) might be interested in recording.”
I’ve been guilty of this as well. However…when I look at any song that I’ve written with any of the above logic in mind…I rarely see fruit. The best songs I have written with the greatest fruit…have been when I return to my first prayer:
“God…let every song I write be only used for your glory.”
In fact – my best songs have not even begun because I desired to write a song to begin with. They began as prayers…sung…to God.
Truth be known…when we try to write “the perfect song” – we are trying to please an audience. We may try to write a song that we feel a congregation will sing or champion…or that will garner attention with the masses. Perhaps it will get a lot of play on the radio. The songs we are supposed to be safeguarding our hearts and gifting to write for God, however, aren’t meant to please man. They are meant to glorify GOD. If I begin a song with no other agenda – and not other audience to please – then my songs will be more vulnerable to be honest in that respect.
Begin by praying out loud to God. SING the first thing on your heart. Camp out there for a moment. No one says it has to rhyme. Just SING. Sing prayers. SING TO GOD!
I had laryngitis one week and was frustrated. I picked up my guitar and sang my prayers to God. As I prayed to Him…I suddenly became scared hearing my own voice struggling to make a noise. I sang the words to my God in a prayer: “What if I could no longer sing…who would sing your praises, Lord?” That line became the launching point for the title cut on my next album. It was never intended to be a song – but God helped me to finish MY question…to answer it so that others could understand the purpose behind the breath in their own lungs.
Here’s the rub, though…if we “sing prayers” to God…but we begin it with the idea that “I’m going to sing to God…and a song will come out of it” – we’ve missed the point. The focus in our songs should be God…instead of songwriting for a song.
Try it sometime…and see where a bit of quality time with God gets you on your journey.