Like the last worship song highlight I wrote (which discussed Rend Collective’s Build Your Kingdom Here), this blog post features a song with roots in Northern Ireland. The modern hymn “Speak, O Lord,” was cowritten by Keith Getty, who hails from Northern Ireland, and Stuart Townend, who is from West Yorkshire, UK. Keith and Kristyn Getty recorded this song on their album “In Christ Alone” in 2006. Notably, the title track from that album was the first song that Getty and Townend cowrote and is the most widely sung hymn written in this century.
Getty and Townend wrote “Speak, O Lord” to open a service, precede the sermon, or follow the sermon. I have used it most often in worship as the song immediately before the sermon. Getty said that he envisioned the hymn as a “prayer of illumination,” similar to what was spoken in numerous liturgies of old. Townend wanted the song to stir believers to heed the word just spoken when departing from worship. Aspects of the text make it very suitable to sing both in preparation for the sermon and as a response after the sermon.
As I sing this song, I am reminded of the story of young Samuel in the temple. After hearing God call several times, Samuel responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:10). In other places throughout the Bible, the writers pray for help to perceive the Lord’s voice through his Word and be taught from it. For example, Psalm 119:8 says, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
When singing this hymn, the entire congregation can pray together for God to speak and for our ears and eyes to be open to learn from Him. We also have the opportunity to sing about the power of God’s Word to transform, strengthen, convict, and build up the church. Some of my favorite lines come from the third verse, which states, “Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds,” echoing Romans 12:2. Later it says, “And by grace we’ll stand on Your promises, and by faith we’ll walk as You walk with us,” echoing 2 Corinthians 5:7.
The fact is that every time the church is gathered, the Bible is opened, and the Word is preached, God is speaking to His people. His goal is to reveal His will to us so that we may live for His glory. The question is: what is our goal when we hear the Word? “Speak, O Lord,” is a prayer for those who earnestly desire to be hearers and doers of the Word, and who seek to be transformed through the power of Christ to live for His glory.
Here is a YouTube link to the Getty recording of “Speak, O Lord”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubRlJj8xkds
Here is an interview about the song from the Worship Together.com New Song Café: http://www.gettymusic.com/hymns-speakolord.aspx