Worship From An Honest Heart

I’m just trying to find a decent melody, a song that I can sing in my own company. —U2

As the first chords were played at a worship service I recently attended, the audience stood and began singing and clapping along with the music. Many raised their hands. Some sat or even knelt on the floor. A few others just stood silently and listened.

I stood. I sang … at least some of the time. To be honest, I was tired and having trouble concentrating. It was early, and I had a lot on my mind. After several songs my feet got tired, so I sat down but continued to sing, most of the time. A million thoughts streamed through my head, but one lingered. I thought back to a conversation I had with a friend the week before. We whispered comments back and forth about one of the songs. Although it was a highly emotionally driven song, it lacked both substance and sense, creating images that were shallow, absurd and perhaps even theologically incorrect. Lines like, “Walking blindly in the truth,” or “Breathe upon the ones unknown.” How can a person walk “blindly in the truth” when Jesus said we will know the truth and the truth will set us free? Or who are these “unknown” that we are asking an omniscient God to breathe upon? It wasn’t just a bad worship song, but bad poetry as well. Needless to say, neither of us liked the song.

On this occasion, I didn’t like the songs much either, but for very different reasons. These songs had depth, made sense and were about as theologically correct as “Amazing Grace.” My problem with these songs was that they were too good. They were too correct. They echoed feelings and desires and claims that I felt I couldn’t honestly have or make.

One song was particularly problematic. It went, This is my desire, to honor You/ Lord, with all my heart I worship You/ All I have within me, I give You praise/ Lord, with all my heart I worship You/ Lord, I give You my heart, I give You my soul/ I live for You alone/ Every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake/ Lord, have Your way with me. A song of complete surrender, love and adoration.

I was having a really hard time with it because, as much as I liked those words and wished to sing them, that was not the song of my heart. I desire to honor God, but I don’t worship Him with all of my heart or praise Him with all that is within me. Usually my praise is only lip service—at most a mental exercise. I have given Him my heart, although I often take it back and keep it for myself. I desire to live for Him alone with my every breath and every move. But I don’t. I live for myself, my goals and dreams and desires. I get caught up in routines and schedules and forget about Him. I have things to do and often get too busy for Him. I want to say, “Lord, have Your way with me,” but that scares me. His way is never easy and is often very painful.

I wanted to sing that song. I wanted to belt it out, hands stretched toward the heavens. But in thinking about the words and what they truly mean, it was difficult. The conflict between who I know I am and who I desire to be raged as the band and audience sang. I was confronted with the reality of my own spiritual apathy and indifference. Looking in the mirror can be a dreadful thing.

My thoughts then led me in a new direction. Although I am severely poetically challenged, I began to have aspirations of writing my own worships songs. Songs I could actually sing and mean whole-heartedly. Songs not about the ideals I hope for, but about the reality I face. Songs with words like, “Lord, I don’t love You like I should. I know I should spend more time with You. You’re not always my first and last thought of the day. I often live for myself rather than for You. But Lord, change all of this. Help me to love You and live for You more.”

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My lack of songwriting ability is probably as apparent as my lack of spiritual fervor. I know that these words probably won’t find their way into a “real” worship song or into any church service. But they come from an honest heart. It is an acknowledgement of complete dependence. I can’t do it on my own—please help me. I think this might be what that father of the possessed boy meant when he said, “I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.” I know I’m not where I should be, so help me get there.

[Ryan Blanck is a high school English and Bible teacher at a Christian school in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He and his wife, Tanya, are expecting their first child in October.]

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