Sometimes, the most powerful songs are written in the simplest of ways, and Matt Maher’s ‘Lord I Need You’ is one such example. Unpretentious yet strikingly profound, this song encapsulates the essence of God’s unconditional love for all of us. The more I listen to it, the more I am reminded of the Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15. In the following article, allow me to share more about why I am deeply moved by this beautiful song and why it serves as the theme of song for all prodigal children – you and I included – of our most loving and most forgiving Father in Heaven.
Lord I Need You begins with the following lyrics – “Lord I come, I confess / Bowing here I find my rest”. Immediately, it is evident that the song speaks of humility, of contrition, of wanting to return home to “find” “rest” in God. The lines that follow in the same stanza exudes a similar sentiment – “Without You I fall apart / You’re the One that guides my heart”. Here we see a recognition that God is our all in all and we are His beloved. This recognition also reflects the awareness that our relationship with God is a personal and intimate one – one that speaks heart to heart. God is not some distant, authoritarian figure, ever ready to judge and to condemn but a God who provides “rest”, who “guides”, who loves passionately. Indeed, it is almost as if this stanza was crafted specially for the prodigal son in Luke 15. One can almost imagine that upon “[coming] to himself” (Luke 15:17) in hunger, desperation and despondency, the prodigal son “set off and went to his father” (Luke 15:20), singing these exact same lyrics.
Additionally, I find the second stanza of Lord I Need You most pivotal and most touching. The stanza begins with a clear contrast between man’s sins and God’s boundless grace – “Where sin runs deep/ Your grace is more”. And this juxtaposition gets further heightened when we consider the following line – “Where grace is found is where You are”. Indeed, God is found in grace; God is grace. Unmerited and unceasing, we are not worthy of His grace yet His grace, mercy and love still abounds! And if that truism is not poignant and moving enough, the following line – which, to me, is the most moving moment of the song – reiterates and reminds us further that we are meant to be with God, that we are meant to be free – “And where You are, Lord, I am free / Holiness is Christ in me.” In this line, Maher also reminds us that holiness stems from within, that Jesus Christ’s presence through the Holy Spirit, lives amongst us all. Notice that in this one stanza alone, we see God’s redemptive and salvific love for all of us through the movement from captive sinner to liberated beloved.
Furthermore, it is crucial to point out that Maher moves to a higher octave at “And where You are, Lord, I am free / Holiness is Christ in me.” Many years ago, I mentioned to Gregory that in doing so, Maher moved from singing from his heart to singing from his soul. Call me dramatic and overly sensitive, but that verse struck a chord in my heart the first time I heard it. There was such a visceral yet liberating cry in that line – it was akin to a gasp of fresh air. Whether Maher intended this to be purely aesthetic or pleasing to the ears, I’m not sure. However, I find this octave movement, precisely at this line of the song, to be most significant. It is almost as though this line is the lynchpin, the fundamental cornerstone in which the rest of the song is anchored upon; it is almost as if this is the moment in which the prodigal father embraces and reunites with the prodigal son in Luke 15:20.
The chorus of Lord I Need You is super simple – “Lord, I need You, Oh, I need You / Every hour I need You / My one defense, my righteousness / Oh God, how I need You.” It is so simple that you would think a primary school child in Sunday catechism class wrote it. Yet, this child-like and unassuming nature of the song is precisely its most moving moments. In these frank and direct words, we hear a desperate voice – indeed, our voices – crying out, in need for God. In other words, you could call this an extremely needy song. And you’re probably right. This song does make us seem very needy in the eyes of God. However, in doing so, this song also challenges the dominant worldly narrative of self-sufficiency and independence. Instead of standing on one’s own feet, one seems to be kneeling in prayer with God throughout this song. Perhaps, then, the discomfort that accompanies this counter-narrative resides in how naturalised we have been (especially living in a meritocratic Singapore) on our own strengths and talents rather than God’s divine providence. And whilst I am not intending to draw an artificial dichotomy between both spheres, we must recognise that Lord I Need You functions as a timely call – one that perhaps (re)awakens a deep sense of ache and our need to depend on God; one that calls us to re-evaluate our priorities as well as our relationship with God.
There was a season in my life when I listened to this song every single morning. I did this because I wanted to be constantly reminded that I needed God and that I depended on God and God alone. In doing so, I was able to face the world, knowing that God was with me and that Christ was in me. I’ve sung ‘Lord I Need You’ in moments of consolation and hummed it in periods of trials and tribulations. Through it all, God has been faithful and boundless in grace. May this song resonate with you and may we all grow to recognise our need for God “every hour” – “ the One that guides [our] heart”, our “one defense” and our “righteousness”.
“Teach my song to rise You / When temptation comes my way / And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You / Jesus, You’re my hope and stay.”
– Matt Maher, Lord I need You
© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Christopher Chok