- From Bob Dylan to worldwide revival, here are thoughts on renewal and the revival of your church’s sung prayers.
When I was younger, I had the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” printed out and stuck to my wall. I happened to be living in Cambodia at the time trying to make an impact in the world by teaching English at a small church in the capital city of Phnom Penh. If you aren’t familiar, the song is a symbolically complex question-and-answer protest tune denouncing corrupt power structures and social injustice. Even though I had all five verses printed out, one of the lines was bolded as the focal point for me. It was the question that opens the final verse: “What’ll you do now my blue-eyed son?” Part of this is due to the fact that I have blue eyes part of it is because I am a son to both my parents and to God, but this line has always been very connected to my mission as a Christian. Where have you been? What did you see and hear? Who did you meet? And with all these things in mind, “What’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?”
I have long since stopped trying to attribute concrete definitions to Dylan lyrics (these days I prefer to let them wash over me like a symbolic shower). But as a missionary in a what to me was a strange land trying to invoke a renewal that could heal a devastated people, some of those images were very real, “I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken / I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children.” More than at any time in my life, it was clear that this world needed the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and his bride would be an important part of that renewal.
Every service of worship is a service of renewal. Spiritual renewal is the process of transformation into the image of God; it is ongoing, and it’s new every day. It happens individually, and it happens corporately. In his article in a recent issue of Worship Leader magazine, John Schreiner points out “there is no such thing as ‘momentum’ in our spiritual lives.” The classic song reminds us, moment by moment we “need Thee every hour, we need Thee.”
It would be easier if we could trust yesterday’s willingness to say “yes” to the Father to carry over to today. But just as his mercies are new every morning, so must our childlike faith in him be renewed through the work of the Spirit on a daily basis. The good news is that the work of renewal is not on our shoulders. God is the great renewer, the great redeemer, the great new-song writer. But we can pray.
How then does this prayer become the prayer of a congregation? How does it translate from personal renewal to community renewal, to regional revival, to worldwide awakening? How do we affect massive change in the world around us where, as Dylan put it, “the people are many and their hands are all empty / where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters”? Well, we don’t have the answer to that. There is no formula that can manufacture revival. But there is something we know to be true: it starts with prayer, and worship leaders are the prayer leaders of the church. Now is the time for us to take that call deeply to heart. Let us make sure that God’s house is, indeed, a house of prayer. Let us do it today, tomorrow, and every day until we finally see him face to face.
Jeremy is the managing editor of Worship Leader magazine. He will be leading songwriting classes and Song Discovery panels at the National Worship Leader Conference this year. Find out more, here.