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How to Sing Songs About Longing for God the RIGHT Way

Recently, Worship Cohort published a new article I wrote titled The Straight Truth About Worship Songs of Longing and Dedication. It begins:

“We should only sing songs about what God has done for us, not what we claim to do for Him.”

“We shouldn’t sing songs about how much we love God, or how we long for Him, because our righteousness is filthy rags. We should just sing about how much He loves us.” 

You’ve probably heard such statements. Maybe you’ve even said them. … But is there a legitimate place in worship for confessing our longing for God, declaring our passion for Him, and for vowing to work for Him?

It’s an important question to ask, especially if you’re a worship leader who has decided to nix all songs that sing about our response to God rather than songs that exclusively talk about God. My answer in that article was, “Yes.”

Answering One Final, Common Objection:

You may say, “I can’t sing about longing for Christ more than anything. I’m a sinner, and I usually long for the objects of my own lust more than I long for Christ. To sing these songs would be like lying.”

Lust is wrongly directed passion. Everyone does long for Christ—most just don’t realize it. We substitute sex, money, gadgets, sports, houses, cars, lands, vacations, power and all kinds of idols for Christ in the vain hope for something that satisfies, something that lasts.

Christians have figured this out because the Holy Spirit has revealed it to us. And as part of our sanctification, we turn our affections toward Christ. As Sojourn pastor Chad Lewis says, one way to think of sanctification is, “Loving sin less; loving God more.” It doesn’t mean that we’re instantly, fully sanctified—sanctification is a gradual process that will not be complete until we stand with Christ in glory.

But, through the power of the Spirit, we do become more like Christ over time. It’s what God expects and what He requires. This is such a major part of the New Testament epistles that rather than list a scripture verse here, I’m going to say, “Read the epistles for confirmation.”

Perhaps the first step for you along this path is to sing it—God does, after all, command us to sing to Him. Corporate worship is designed to be formational, habit-forming  (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). When you get up every Sunday morning, get dressed, drive to church and—in spite of how you feel—you sing truths about God and about how you long for Him like a deer longs for water, the Holy Spirit works through those sung affirmations to align you closer to God’s “end game” for you: to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. After all, it’s really the Holy Spirit who caused you to get out of bed, get dressed and go to church in the first place. Keep trusting Him.

Where to Include Such Songs in a Corporate Worship Service:

Isaiah 6:1-6 has long provided a model that worship planners use to craft liturgy for weekly services:

  • First Movement of Service—God Is Holy (v. 1-4) “The whole earth is full of his glory!”
  • Second Movement—We Are Sinners (v. 5) “Woe is me! For I am lost …”
  • Third Movement—Jesus Saves Us (v. 6-7) “Your guilt is taken away …”
  • Fourth Movement—Jesus Sends Us (v. 8-9 ) “Here am I, send me …”

Using such a model, the most obvious place to express longing for God is in the second movement. Our sin has brought us separation, and it has also brought brokenness to this entire world—all of creation is groaning.

But of course you can do songs of longing in other places as well. For instance, in the third movement, we declare that Jesus saves us. Why wouldn’t we sing and pray about longing to finally look upon the One who suffered like no other, for us?

Once again, to see my initial article on this subject for WorshipCohort.org, click here.  

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Bobby Gilles has written several of Sojourn Music’s popular worship songs for albums like The Water And The Blood, Over The Grave and Before The Throne. He is content manager for sojournmusic.com and has mentored songwriters and led many Sojourn songwriting workshops as part of Pastor Mike Cosper’s worship ministry. Bobby is also Sojourn Church Director Of Communications, and works with Lead Pastor Daniel Montgomery to communicate Sojourn’s mission and vision. He co-wrote the children’s book Our Home Is Like A Little Church, published by Christian Focus. As a former radio disc jockey and music director, he was twice named a National Top 10 Finalist for Gospel Music DJ of the Year.