I recently reread the book Sacrifice of Praise by Lindsay Terry which documents the stories behind the greatest praise and worship songs. Some of those stories I heard from the songwriters themselves.
I want to share three behind-the-song stories and what they tell us about receiving a song from the Lord. Don Moen said of the stories “this is for anyone who has ever been touched by the right song at the right time."
"You shall have a song, ... And gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, To come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel." Isa 30:29
The first song is We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise. One Sunday morning in 1984 Pastor Charlotte Baker spoke to the Shady Grove congregation on bringing the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. Pastor Olen Griffing was the pastor of the Dallas/Ft Worth congregation. As twenty-eight-year-old Kirk Dearman drove home from the service, “Suddenly, I began to hear this catchy tune in my mind, and within five minutes I had the chorus of a song.” He shared it with the congregation the next Sunday. Some students from Christ For the Nations Institute were in the service and they shared the song on campus. It was later put on a CFNI cassette and distributed around the world.
The second song, All Hail King Jesus, Dave Moody received as he was worshipping the Lord waiting for his piano students to arrive. He poured out his heart to God playing and singing spontaneously. Suddenly a melody came to him and then lyrics. “All Hail King Jesus, All Hail Emmanuel, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Bright Morning Star….” I didn’t intend to write a song Dave said but there it was.” He couldn’t wait to share it with the Glad Tidings Temple congregation in Vancouver, since he was leading the music that Sunday. After playing and singing it through a few times it didn’t seem to catch on. The leader of the service asked Dave to sing it again and when he did, he recalls, “As we were nearing the end of the song I opened my eyes, and to my surprise I saw the congregation of more than eight hundred people on their knees with hands raised to heaven.”
I was in the service that Sunday in 1977 and was deeply impacted. Later I had the privilege of publishing the song and placing it in hymn books. In 1985 Integrity Hosanna Music recorded it featuring Kent Henry (see below). The uniqueness of this prophetic song has touched millions around the world. It was such a unique anthem at the time. One of the first songs to be sung “to” God.
The third song is Celebrate Jesus. In the early 1980’s Gary Oliver, music minister at Truth Church in Fort Worth, TX, made a practice of taking his Bible and going to the kitchen (the only place that had room for the studio piano) to pray, play and sing to the Lord. Those Saturday nights God would often give him a song for the next Sunday service. The church needed a song for the children’s ministry to celebrate Easter. Gary received and wrote the song Celebrate Jesus. As the children’s choir sang it for the first time, he adult choir joined in and the whole congregation exploded in praise. Gary says, “We sang the song for at least forty-five minutes. It interrupted the whole program.” The song has gone around the world being translated into Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German and other African dialects. (See below)
What do we learn from these song stories that touched so many in worship and praise?
The songwriter spent time worshiping the Lord in private. They did not set out to write songs but get into the presence of the One who is Song.
The songs had a huge impact on the worshippers that sang them. I remember being in that service when the song All Hail King Jesus was sung for the first time. We were weeping on our knees with hands raised. That was unheard of at the time. It was a sovereign and holy moment.
The subject and focus of the song is the Lord, even in We Bring the Sacrifice is speaking of offering to God our praise. These songs are not about humans and how God solves our problems.
They have very biblical themes. They are not artsy metaphorical expressions of creative writers but a concept that came from a message, a worship moment or reading the Bible.
What song is God putting in your heart? Whether it Is to be shared and published or just sang to an audience of One, He wants us to sing about Him to Him! God's Word says, "You will have a song." Receive your song today.