Song Story: 10,000 Reasons

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“10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”
By Matt Redman

WL: Please share the specifics of writing “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”and what was on your heart as far as the theme and focus?

Redman: I wrote this song with a great friend, Jonas Myrin. He’s a Swedish guy who I’ve sat down to song-write with lots over the last few years. He played me an idea for some of the chorus melody, and I found it immediately inspiring. In fact, it felt like a perfect fit for a song based on the opening of Psalm 103. The song came together really quickly—a good chunk of the song was actually a spontaneous moment. I have no idea why some songs take months of writing and re-writing (like “Blessed Be Your Name”) and others arrive really swiftly (like this one). One thing I’ve realized over the years is there’s no distinct rule that says that something composed quickly must therefore be more spiritual or inspired! Yes, God-breathed inspired worship songs can at times be written very quickly and spontaneously—but at other times they’ve involved a lot of perseverance, perspiration, and hard work!

I’ve always loved Psalm 103 and how the writer lists all of these brilliant reasons why his heart is full of worship for God: he heals our diseases, redeems our lives from the pit, crowns us with love and compassion, etc. So in the verses of this song we try and make a little list of our own—noting of course that we’re hardly even scratching the surface of God’s worth—there are “10,000 Reasons” for our hearts to find. With anyone or anything else, that would be an outrageous overstatement. With Jesus, it is a huge understatement. The point behind the song is this: if you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there’s something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not his. We live beneath an unceasing flow of goodness, kindness, greatness, and holiness, and every day we’re given reason after reason why Jesus is so completely and utterly worthy of our highest and best devotion.

Please explain the phrase “Bless the Lord.” Perhaps explicate the usage of the term “bless” in different contexts—as applied to us and to God?

Redman: I like the phrase “Bless the Lord” and find John Piper’s description of what this means really helpful. He says that when God ‘blesses’ us we are in a sense being added to, and having our lives enriched. But of course when we say we “bless the Lord,” it’s different; we’re not adding to God or enriching Him in any way, we are simply recognizing his richness and bounty, and expressing our thanks and praise for it.

The number in the title echoes “Amazing Grace.” Can you delve into the intricacies of your lyric choice and the connection between “10,000 reasons” and “10,000 years”?

Redman: We already had the “10,000 reasons” lyric in verse two. So when it got to writing verse three, and we were on the theme of eternity, the idea came to mirror that “10,000” number and at the same time give a nod to the old hymn. I think that mirroring device is something I’d learned from listening to country music—Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” and Blake Shelton’s “The Baby” are great (and more skillful!) examples of that. These songs have lyrical hooks, with a twist. As songwriters we can think so much about including melodic and musical hooks, which is really important, but we mustn’t underestimate the impact of a lyrical hook too. It’s a great songwriting device, but it’s also a really helpful congregational one—making a song more instant and easy to grab on to.

This song is Bible-based, but you didn’t use the text word-for-word. Please explain some good practices in capturing Scripture in song.

Redman: My ideal for songwriting is to infuse passion with truth. I love worship songs that are so rich with the word of God, but very obviously exploded out of the heart of the songwriters in a passionate way. You can, of course, take a big chunk of Scripture and keep it word for word, composing a melody for it. I’ve never been very good at that approach and honestly I think it’s a very tricky thing to do, within the style that I tend to write in. The main benefit of that approach is that people can commit the Bible to memory through song, and there’s much to be said that’s very commendable about that (my personal aim has never really been the memorizing of Scripture, as brilliant as that is). But my main aim in songwriting is to see something of Jesus, and then reflect it. So I’ve always taken a different approach.

The best way I can describe it is actually found in Eugene Peterson’s book, Under the Unpredictable Plant. He writes that when Jonah is in the belly of the fish he pours out a prayer of great passion but notes that not one phrase in the prayer is original—it all comes from the Psalms. In fact, it comes not just from one psalm, but many different psalms. So he’s not just reciting a piece of Scripture in that moment. He’s pouring out his heart, and many different phrases from the Psalms are being woven together into his prayer. The point is, Jonah is in an intense situation, and what pours out of him is utterly heartfelt, and yet also utterly full of the Word of God. My ideal is that the same could be true in the writing of worship songs—that we could be so full of the truth of Scripture that in our most intense moments in life, be it joy or sorrow, what pours passionately out of our hearts is infused with the Word of God. It may not be a whole portion of Scripture—perhaps the song contains an essence of something Paul said in one of his letters, with a phrase or two from the Psalms, with an overtone of what Jesus said at one point in the Gospels, and something from the Old Testament in there too. That’s definitely a key to make sure our songs are raw and real—and yet full of life-changing and God-honoring truth. 

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    35 comments on “Song Story: 10,000 Reasons

    1. Just wondering if listening to country music is really something that is
      wise as a wrship leader. You listen to 10 crappy songs to one good one, so isn’t that effecting you spiritually? Not judging, just asking. I use to enjoy country music but it’s so infiltrated with junk that now that I lead worship I’m very aware of what it does to me!

      • He named specific country songs. Today, most of us download what we actually want to listen to. Call me old-fashioned but I don’t like the word crappy.

      • Honestly i feel that everyone has there own walk and knows there moral boundaries. listening to secular music may corrupt the mind of one and inspire another. depends on if you are looking at the lyrics for meaning, to worship, to live by, or simply to appreciate and learn from artistic structure. the first worship music we listened to did not include many of the things we use today. it also excluded many genres. i was a huge fan of hip-hop. If christian never listened to such music it would limit our capabilities as song makers. and we couldn’t reach out to the masses effectively. just my opinion

      • The article simply says he “learned something” from listening to country music. I would guess that most artists listen to a great variety of music simply to educate themselves. I’m confident from what I read in the article that this artist relies heavily on the scriptures and the Holy Spirit but I don’t understand why we as Christians also can’t learn from “secular” sources.

      • Have you read the lyrics to “Temporary Home”? A quick glance reveals the point Matt was making. There’s an artful symmetry in the structure of the song, and that is similar to what he was trying to craft in his own song. If you’re offended by non-Christian things, you should consider that the content of the song is so Christian that it might as well be a “Christian” song. Actually, it was ranked 34 on Billboard’s US Christian Songs chart at one time. And it was written by a Christian. So I don’t know how you can draw hard lines between what’s Christian and not, especially in this case. Even if it could be said that it was not Christian at all, again, just look at the beauty of the craft used in writing it. Just as we can look at and learn from a beautiful painting or magnificent architectural design, we can also learn from secular songs, using what we learn to help our own songwriting.

    2. i thank God for Matt Redman and all the other men and women who are writing new songs for praise and worship!!!!!!! we sang this song 2 weeks in a row for worship in our small country church, and GOD WAS THERE!!!! praise the Lord! and keep those amazing new songs coming too!!!

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    4. I love this song! At first I thought that I had sung this song when I was young (from the old hymns)
      but just found out that Matt wrote it himself! Wow!! Thank the Lord for giving Matt, and now us, this wonderful song!!!

    5. @Sherry Carr- I understand your thought behind wondering if listening to country is wise for a worship leader, but look at the titles of the songs. Both are fantastic and ain’t your “norm” for today’s popular country songs. There’s a lot of preachers, “christian” bands, and teaching you hear in churches that are much worse for you than a beer drinking song. Paul warned the church as did Christ, about letting your ears hear and listen to these false gospels, and how detrimental that can be to our spiritual health. I love country music, and I love God, desire to glorify and serve Him with all that I am. However, we are to use discernment in all aspects of our lives. I don’t think nor do I believe that if you’re listening to any genre of music other than Christian it’s unwise. Because there’s a lot longer list than the two matt mentioned of country songs that a great, by God’s standards of songs. I hope that made sense. I love you and God bless. Great song Matt!

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    7. Hi Sherry!
      I used to believe the same. But music is just one of the media that enters in our hearts, mind, and soul. I mean, reading a newspaper may not be as influential. But novels are. How much more watching movies in big screen with all those realistic sounds enveloping us? We can not limit ourselves on the Bible and the hymns. God blessed a lot of other stuff too. When I hear some classical music, I feel God although the music has nothing to do with God. let us stay relevant, im preachin to myself now. cheer up!

      • I try to be careful what I listen to and watch as well. As long as you don’t make rules that everyone needs to abide by, but leave these gray areas to people asking the Lord, “What should I do?” no problem. The moment we make rules for ourselves and/or others that indicate that this is how to please God we have moved into legalism. Walk by the Spirit, however, guard your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.

    8. At the women’s retreat, the Katy Trail bike ride, we worshiped to this song. We sang the words along with a you tube video. Very moving lyrics! Love to sing it in church. Helps me worship deeply.

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    11. The first time I heard the medley of this song, I found it strangely Chinese in feel… and it niggled me so much that I tried googling to see what inspired the medley. It didn’t surprise me that the medley is so similar to a Chinese song I heard on the radio growing up. You can see the comparison in a video another person made of the two songs:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eElYJFJ_sKs

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    14. I find this song(10,000 Reasons) repetitive, too long, and boring. When we are “forced” to play it for the 2% in the congregation that like it, everyone else is yawning. The people that like this song I suspect play CDs with the repeat feature on ALL THE TIME. Yes the lyriics are just wondrous etc, etc, etc, but it is a long, long,long,long,long,long,long,long,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,repetitive song. In this cogregation we will not tolerate redundancy in this congregation………………… :) lol

      • I’m not sure how we’ll worship in heaven. But almost every scripture that speaks about it says it will be something like “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come”. I hope you don’t get bored!

      • Hey Steve,
        Did you know that as a worship leader you have the ability to sing as much of a song as you like? Why not sing V1, V2, Chorus, V3, Chorus. It’s not repetitive at all if you don’t make it repetitive.

    15. I am so grateful to God for this anointed worship song. It plays over and over in my home and as I worship Him, it draws me very near. My heart and my house are filled with His tangible presence. Thanks to the psalmist from the worshipping Bride!

    16. I love this song….I thank the Lord for blessing such a wonderful n inspirational person in Earth…Lucky to ve u…n may God bless u to write outnumbered songs again!!

    17. This is one of the most beautiful song ever written n sung in recent times. When I heard it for the first time in my church yesterday, I was so taken in by it and Inspired to keep singing. The song has been hovering over my head n lips till now. Thank you for blessing the Lord n us with this song. Praise d Lord!

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    19. One of my tech guys asked me about concept of worshiping the name of God, e.g. “I’ll worship your holy name.” His point was that scripture talks of extolling, praising and loving God’s name, and ascribing glory to His name, but there doesn’t seem to be scripture that mentions worshiping His name. Rather, He is to be worshiped.

      I know what my response would be, but I’m curious what Matt Redman’s response is.
      Thanks.

    20. I don’t know if the one negative comment was facetious or not (there was a smiley face after all) but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people didn’t like this song. However, for me, this is one of those rare songs that come along every once in a while that inspire me to worship the very first time I heard it. I know that for many people, “Shout to the Lord” has become one of those “old songs” we don’t do anymore because it was sung to death at the height of its popularity. But that is another example of one that ministered to me right away. “10,000 Reasons” may eventually be called “10,000 Times Sung in Our Worship Services”, but for now it still is one of those songs that really inspires me and my congregation to worship when we sing it. Thank you, Jonas and Matt for listening to God and crafting a song that blesses God and also blesses many of us as we sing it!

    21. This is one of my favor hymn’s and my congregation too. We are in the process of joining two churches into one and that is our new name shown in the website. I cannot believe one comment was repetitive and long, long. This is a beautiful song. So many of the newer, upbeat songs sound alike, one reason I tend to like the old hymns. I love Matt’s songs. I hope he continues to write. Blessings,

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    23. first heard the Kim Walkers version and was trilled, its one of it’s kind definatly one that brings down the presence of God. Guess what the Song’s story was like a worded message you would want to hear on a sunday. May God increase you richly MattRed

    24. We have been so blessed by this song. Translating it to the local language has turned it into an anthem for church here in the rural parts of western Uganda. God bless u Matt.

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