“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
~ Psalm 37:4
I have a confession to admit: I am a very proud person.
My pride manifests itself as excessive self-reliance.
It is very often that my thought life sounds something like, “I can do all things…if I work hard enough” (see Philippians 4:13 for the correct prayer we ought to pray).
God used His children to correct this false narrative in my life, and in so doing, how to praise Him properly.
The City of Hope staff let us lead a few songs of worship every Sunday.
On the last Saturday at the compound, I really struggled with the set list.
I felt convicted to choose songs we had not sang yet.
I could not decide whether to pick highly energetic songs or more introspective songs (the sermon was going to be given by Jacob on God’s unconditional love for His children).
Instead of turning to God for direction, I thought I could “do it” all myself.
Of course, in real time I did not realize how wrong this was.
It wasn’t until the final Sunday that this sin was realized for me.
I settled for Set a Fire and How Great is Our God, since we had already taught the kids these songs earlier in the week.
I also decided to teach them a new song, Lord We Lift Your Name on High.
This was a personal favorite from my younger years as a new believer.
When Sunday morning came, I was nervous.
“What if they don’t like the song?”
“What if the key is too high or low?”
“I don’t even like singing in front of people.”
“What if another song fits better with the sermon?”
Moving forward in faith, I decided to not overthink the songs and just proceed with boldness & trust.
We began worship with a reading from Psalm 150 during prayer:
“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!”
~ Psalm 150:1-6
As we prayed, I reflected on the final line: “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”
We sang Set a Fire and How Great is Our God, both songs we had taught the kids earlier in the trip.
But to my surprise, when it came time to learn the new song, the kids already knew it. It was one of their favorites.
[I probably should have expected this – Lord I Lift Your Name on High is pretty well known.]
The kids sang with new zeal I had not seen in their worship.
It was the loudest they had sang yet – even the boys in the back of the room were singing!
And I concluded God was in control the whole time.
He reminded me to “trust in the LORD with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all [my] ways acknowledge Him and He will make [my] paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
He made reality the truth that “let everything that has breath praise the Lord”, even if that praise consists only of a few off-pitch voices and a small Walmart bongo drum.
Moreover, I also realized that “the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3).
Regardless of which songs were chosen, He had a purpose for worship that morning.
My responsibility was to seek first God’s glory, then the rest (namely, that the kids were prepared to sing all of the songs) would be merely additions.
This put a new joy in my heart that silenced my negative thoughts.
I realized that I had been excessively relying on my own abilities as a musician instead of turning to God as the author and director of my faith.
It occurred to me in that moment that praise cannot be about practice so that we can learn – it was about presence, so that we could love.
So may our praise ever be that – not a matter of song selection or learning which chord progressions work best in a given praise setting.
Christ does not exist in order to make much of us. We exist in order to enjoy making much of Him.
Our lives were made for this purpose.
Set a fire down in my soul
That I can’t contain that I can’t control
I want more of You, God
I want more of You God!
[Set a Fire, Will Reagan & United Pursuit]
[Unfortunately, I was not able to record Lord I Lift Your Name on High so I could post it here.
I look forward to the day when I can hear the children singing that song again, whether in this life or the next.]