During the charismatic outpouring of the 1970s many churches became more aware of the Holy Spirit than they had ever been. That awareness then, and in subsequent years, resulted in songs to and about the Holy Spirit which weren’t always as theologically precise as one would hope. Given the number of times we repeated some of those songs, it seemed as though the Holy Spirit was either hard of hearing or resistant to our requests to have him move among us, fill us, empower us, or be with us.
That’s why I’m so grateful for writers like Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, writers of In Christ Alone, The Power of the Cross, and many more modern hymns that articulate the truths of our faith with clarity and passion.
In 2005 they wrote a hymn simply called Holy Spirit, which is a welcome and needed addition to hymns that help us understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the church today. (You can download the piano/lead sheet for free at Keith and Kristyn’s website). Not only are the lyrics exceptional, but the melody is singable, easy to learn, and beautiful.
This is what Keith wrote about the song:
“Holy Spirit” is the final hymn I wrote with Stuart Townend as part of the Apostle’s Creed album we created in 2005. This collection of songs focuses on the basic tenants of the Christian faith outlined in the ancient creed.
As in much of our songwriting, we wanted to connect the radical truths of what we believe with everyday life. In this particular song, we desired the hymn to function as a sung prayer about the Holy Spirit’s renewing power. In church services, it works well used just prior to the sermon or at its conclusion, as well as before the service or during a prayer time.
We divided the hymn into three verses. The first expresses a prayer for inward change, asking the Holy Spirit to transform us from the core of our being. Without such change, all religious attempts are futile. We must daily ask for renewal and the desire to love and treasure God’s word and his ways.
Verse two petitions the Spirit to abide in us so we’re able to bountifully bear [his] fruit, such as the kindness and gentleness described so beautifully in Galatians 5:22-23. Closing this verse is a prayer “to show Christ is all I do.”
Verse three is a more expansive prayer for the church. During the songwriting process, we kept revisiting this verse as we examined the role of the Holy Spirit throughout the New Testament. In passage after passage, evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power in someone’s life was marked by two characteristics–Christ is magnified, and the individual is led on a path of sacrifice.
We thus combined the lyric and arrangement of the last verse to build through the first five lines as we convey the power of the Spirit and our desire to see the church hunger for its ways. Then in line six, we suddenly stop with the prayer, “Lead us on the road to sacrifice/That in unity the face of Christ/Will be clear for all the world to see.” Artistically, this works as a bit of a surprise as we underscore the paradox and wonder of Christ’s power in us. Only through experiencing sacrifice are we unified as the body of Christ. Only through reaching the end of ourselves can we achieve a vibrant Christian witness that everyone on the outside can see as different.