Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.
It had been a long time since I sang these familiar words, but there I was on Wednesday night at Lifeway’s WorshipLife Event in Gatlinburg, TN, singing along as Paul Baloche led us with just his acoustic guitar in hand.
It brought me way back, back to the time when my youth pastor found out I played guitar and said, “Do you want to lead worship?” I didn’t know anything about “leading worship,” but I loved to sing, I loved to play my guitar, and I loved God, so I said yes.
We didn’t have a band, or a stage, or moving lights, or a sound system. I led worship initially using an old, red, hollow-body Ovation electric guitar, unplugged, with just the twangy sound of the electric strings underneath my vocals.
But God was there. I can remember feeling his presence in such an amazing way on those Wednesday nights in the “youth room” on the second floor of the small New Jersey church where I grew up. We sang from our hearts because we didn’t know how to fake it.
I want to see You. I want to see You.
We loved to sing that song in those days. It was simple enough for me to play on guitar and for everyone to sing, and we’d repeat the words over and over, even though there were only a handful of lyrics.
I was just a 14-year old kid. There was so much I didn’t know. I didn’t have any experience. I didn’t have any training. I didn’t have a theology of worship. Sometimes I had to learn new chords just to play a new song. I would come a few minutes early so I could flip through a binder of chord charts stuffed in page protectors and pick out four songs to lead. We used an overhead projector to put the words up on the white wall for everyone to see.
But God was there. I can remember being overcome by emotion, tears streaming down my face as I played and sang in a quavering voice.
To see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory.
Over the years I learned more about music and more about leading worship. I left behind the simplicity of “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” and turned to more musically and lyrically complex material. I learned how to plan the flow of a service and create seamless transitions. I learned about signal flow and mix tricks and how to EQ my voice. I learned how to exhort the congregation in the middle of a song, and how to speak to the congregation between songs – but not too much! I learned how to lift my hands at just the right moment for emotional impact, and how to step away from the mike and let the congregation sing in a quiet moment of the song. I learned how to rehearse a band, and how to speak to drummers (slowly!) and how to play in any key (capos!)
And yet for all I knew about music and worship, it seemed I knew God less and less. God was still there, but too often I left church on a Sunday morning without ever truly experiencing his presence.
I was getting better at leading worship, but I was getting worse at worshipping God.
Pour out your power and love, as we sing holy, holy, holy.
How long has it been since I felt God’s power and love poured out during a time of worship? Have I come so far from the innocent, expectant faith of my youth that I am content merely with the proper execution of a worship set, rather than the manifest presence of God in our midst? Can I sing the right songs, play the right notes, employ the right movements, say the right words and walk away satisfied, having never experienced the power of God’s love?
As we sang, I realized how hungry I was for God to pour out His power and love on me and on those I lead. I realized how hungry I was just to see him, to have the eyes of my heart opened once again, to return to a time when I didn’t know anything about leading worship, but I knew God.
The tears streamed down my face.
And God was there. I could see him.
Holy, holy, holy! Holy, holy, holy!
And my heart sang, even though my mouth couldn’t make a sound.
Holy, holy, holy! I want to see you.
This article was originally posted on doorpostsongs.com on July 2, 2017
David Ray is a worship leader, artist and songwriter from Houston, Texas. He and his wife, Jess, are the creators of Doorpost Songs Family Worship, a series of songs and resources designed to help parents take up the mantle of spiritual leadership in their homes. He is father to three rambunctious kids and he loves getting to serve churches and families across the nation.