Songwriting According to Psalm 40
This article first appeared in Worship Leader, May 2011. Subscribe to Worship Leader today!
Trying to write a worship song? It’s quite a weighty endeavor, especially considering that our entire reason for existence on this earth is to lift up the praises of our creator! But rather than turning to the latest fad or formula, why not look to the most famous worship songwriter in history?
Psalm 40 is one of King David’s most well known songs, having been adapted to music by artists spanning from Stravinsky to Bono. But what are the aspects of this text that makes it so powerful? I believe that the first three verses alone speak volumes to why David sings so passionately to his God.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.
Though it is not my desire to minimize this Scripture to merely a blueprint for all worship songs, I do believe it is important that we recognize some key components of this song that make it so powerful.
First, David begins with the incorporation of his story. David’s testimony, like many of ours, was filled with its share of highlights and lowlights. As a man after God’s own heart, he had faith enough to defeat giants and rule nations. Yet, he fell into the most grievous of sins, committing adultery then covering it up with murder. And though the pit of David’s sin was deep, he was never out of reach of God’s mighty hand of redemption. Where David failed, God restored. Where David waited on the Lord, God showed up in his perfect timing, bringing the utmost glory to himself!
Secondly, we see David’s response: the declaration of God’s glory. David sings a new song to God, a song of praise and thanksgiving. And why a new song? Could it be because God’s mercies are new every morning? Could it be that in every twist and turn of David’s journey he discovered new and fresh reasons to sing God’s praises?
Lastly, we see David’s expectation of the extraordinary. David proclaims God’s goodness for this distinct purpose: that many will hear and put their trust in the Lord. David believes that God will do extraordinary things through his new song, not because of the greatness of our songs, but because of the greatness of our God. As I said earlier, if our sole purpose of existence is to give praise to our creator, doesn’t it make sense that God would delight in putting these new songs in our hearts?
So what’s your story? What pit has God pulled you out of? What miry clay is God currently redeeming you from? And do you believe that your personal worship testimony could be used to bring many to salvation? God’s Word tells us that the Church is advancing and the gates of hell will not prevail. As we songwriters have the opportunity of being part of the greatest mission ever, will we boldly sing our new song?
The worship leader at Perimeter church in Atlanta, GA, Laura Story is also an author and the writer of the much-loved worship song, “Indescribable.” Find out more at laurastorymusic.com.