WRITING LYRICS FOR A PRAISE AND WORSHIP SONG
BY NG WAH LOK
Praise and worship songs have swamped our churches in the last 30 years. Prior to that, up to the 1960’s
most Churches used traditional hymns. Today, we find that most fast growing churches use modern praise
and worship songs. The songs are shorter and the lyrics are more simple. The tunes are catchy and easy to
sing. This tutorial will help you to write lyrics for simple Praise and Worship songs.
2.0 How do you get started ?
Firstly, keep your eyes opened to what God is doing in your life and in your church. Try to get a thought
from God. The best lyrics usually come from real life experiences. For example, when I saw my church
praying intensely in our early and difficult days, I wrote the song “Every Time I Pray” in 1981. Similarly,
when I personally experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, I wrote the song “Flow Holy Spirit” in 1995. If
God is moving in a particular way in your Church eg. there is a season of healing, then write a song on
healing. A song linked to a real life experience is usually a powerful and anointed song.
3.0 How to move on after getting a main idea ?
So you got your idea for your song. You should have the main phrase by now. eg. God is
good…….Healing waters…. Amazing Grace…Trading my sorrows….Ticket to heaven… ??? What is
next ? Well let this idea burn in your heart for a while and keep thinking of the main thought and develop
some nice lyrical lines. Write down all the possible lines you want to put into your song. To get more ideas,
read a hymn book.
Let me share with you how I wrote Healing Waters . My church leader was afflicted with cancer. She was
only 47. I was a little mad with the Devil for bringing all these sicknesses especially to those who love
God so much. I have lost some close friends to cancer before. So I asked God for a song on healing. Here
is how I wrote the song.
Example.- Healing Waters (main idea)
a) Firstly I wrote a list of all my ideas, whatever comes to my mind. Search hymn books if you are short
Healing waters flow (main idea )
Jehovah Rophe, we need you now
By your stripes we are healed
No sickness too great
No barrier too wide
We need your power
We need your healing touch
Open the heavens, let healing waters flow
Open the heavens, let healing power flow
Woman with the issue of blood
You died for my sickness
You died for my shame
Power in the name of Jesus
Power of the cross
Power of the blood
Healing in your wings
Healing from your throne
4.0 Start creating your melody/lyrics for the chorus and one verse after getting your main idea
When you have written down all the ideas and lyrical lines you have thought of, you can start to create a
melody to fit some of these lines. Go to your instrument. Remember “Healing waters” was my main idea.
So try to write at least a verse or a chorus. This is what I did first.
Healing Waters Flow– By Ng Wah Lok
First draft Final Draft
Verse 1 Verse 1
We need You now, We need you more than we did ever before
We need Your power, Your healing touch We need you now,
So won’t you come, With Your healing power We need your power, Your healing touch
So open up the heavens So open up the heavens
Let Your healing waters flow Let Your healing waters flow
Jehovah Rophe come Jehovah Rophe come.
Come with healing in Your wings Chorus:-
Your healing power flows from the throne of grace Come with healing in your wings
Healing waters flow. Come with healing from the throne of grace
Healing waters flow.
When I finished the first verse and chorus, I looked at the song and thought it could have at least another
one or two more verses. So I decided I wanted the second verse to come from Isa 53 “By Your stripes we
are healed”.. It is usually very easy to write a second verse once the first verse is written. So verse 2 goes
By the stripes upon Your back, We are healed
By Your death, upon the cross, We are saved
So we can call upon the power of Your name
Jehovah Rophe come.
If I do write a third verse, I would want to use the woman with the issue of blood who was healed. So far, I
think my third verse is not necessary. This song could stand as it is.
5.0 Keep your lyrics in the chorus simple
Most praise and worship songs have simple chorus so people can sing it almost immediately. Let me give
you some examples of top worship songs with simple chorus.
1. Heart of worship – Matt Redman
2. I could sing of your love forever – Martin Smith
3. We want to see Jesus lifted high
4. Trading my sorrows – Darryl Evans
5. Let Every thing that has breath – Matt Redman
6. Shout to the Lord – Darlene Zchech
7. God is good all the time – Don Moen/Paul Overstreet
I can go on and on with the list of our favorite worship songs. Many of them will have simple chorus. All
these are great writers. It is not that they do not have ideas to write in the chorus. They kept it simple so
people would be hooked to the song the first time they sing it.
7.0 Try to write your lyrics building one line after another.
Lyrics must have a flow of thought. A person reading it without listening to the music must feel satisfied
that you have written a good message and have consistent flow of thoughts.
One technique is to follow an idea line after line eg.
Example 1 – We rejoice in Your love
We rejoice in Your love
We rejoice in Your grace
We rejoice in Your majesty
You bring into this place
The writer is playing with words, love, grace, majesty….other words which could be used are joy,
goodness, power, strength, mercy etc. for another verse.
Example 2 –Every Thing that has breath – Matt Redman
Praise you in the morning
Praise you in the evening
Praise You when I’m young and when I’m old
Praise You when I’m laughing
Praise You when I’m grieving
Praise You every season of the soul
Matt Redman continues line after line in his second verse but with some variation. He adds in a variation
“joining with the angels/earth now”. For his second verse eg
Praise you in the heavens
Joining with the angels
Praising You forever and a day
Praise you on the earth now
Joining with creation
Calling all the nations to Your praise
It is easy to follow these lyrics and see how the writer takes a thought and add line after line to it.
8. Write your verses following a fixed structure
This is another technique used by song writers where the verses follow almost a fixed structure ie after the
first verse is written, the writer merely changes some words in the second verse so maintaining a good flow
Example : Days of Elijah by Robin Mark
Verse 1 Verse 2
These are the days of Elijah These are the days of Ezekiel
Declaring the word of the Lord The dry bones becoming as flesh
These are the days of Your servant Moses These are the days of Your servant David
Righteousness being restored Rebuilding the temple of praise
These are the days of great trials And these are the days of the harvest
Of famine and darkness and swords The fields are white in the world
Still we are the voice in the desert crying And we are the laborers in Your vineyard
Prepare ye the way of the Lord Declaring the word of the Lord
You will notice that there are a lot of similar words in verse 1 and 2. If the writer does write a verse 3, it
will definitely be similar and he will most probably use two other Bible Characters.
Martin Smith uses a similar technique with his song “Did you feel the mountains tremble ?”
Example : Did you hear the mountains tremble ? Martin Simth
Verse 1 Verse 2
Did you hear the mountains tremble Did you feel the people tremble
Did you hear the oceans roar Did you hear the singers roar
When the people rose to sing of When the lost begin to sing of
Jesus Christ the risen one. Jesus Christ the saving one
Having a nice structure in your verses helps the audience understand your song.
9. Switch ideas/persons/activity from verse to verse
This is another technique song writers use. When they start to plan the lyrics, they already know what they
want in their verses. They have different person/idea/words in each verse but they try to maintain a similar
Example 1 – Did your hear the mountains tremble – Martin Smith
Verse 1 – Did you hear the mountains tremble
Verse 2 – Did you hear the people tremble
Verse 3 – Did you hear the darkness tremble
So the same structure is repeated verse after verse. The writer merely switches the person/activity/attribute
Example 2 – Prepare the way – Darrell Evans and Eric Nuzum
Verse 1 – He has come to bring light into the darkness
Verse 2 – He has come to bring hope to the hopeless
10. Edit your lyrics over a period of time
This is critical. Think over what you have written for several weeks and look for better words. You have
only got the first draft now. Refine it until you are fully satisfied with the words.
Well, we have come to the end of this tutorial. Hope you have learnt some new tricks in lyric writing.
About the author Ng Wah Lok
Ng Wah Lok has written over 100 songs in 23 years. His song “Every Time I Pray”
written in 1981 is widely used in Asia. He has released 2 albums, “Every Time I Pray”
and “Shining Stars”. He has also co-written 9 songs in the album “Favored Chick” by
Barbara Tipper. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit his website
www.tabernaclemusic.net to read his other articles on music and songwriting.
Ng Wah Lok 2002 All rights reserved.