This Music Explained

I took group piano lessons for a year when I was six. After that, I noodled around on my mom’s piano, plunking out theme songs to TV shows and movies. It wasn’t until I began to play keyboard for the youth group’s worship band that I learned to play with more than my fingers and natural sense for melody. Often a youth service would end with a time of prayer and I’d be asked to play piano while others prayed.

At first, I’d play a few songs we had done during the worship set, but instrumentally. After a time, I tried to listen to the Holy Spirit. What was He saying? Did He want a song that wasn’t in the set? Did He want a song that wasn’t recognizable so people wouldn’t try to sing along but would rather focus on prayer? Did a melody matter, or was He just looking for chords? What was He feeling? What were the people feeling? What was I feeling? Could we make music that ministered alongside of whatever was going on in the hearts of the people?

It became a personal experience, an honor, and, eventually, a dread. I felt pleased to be a tool in God’s hands, so to speak. It felt good and right. And for a teenager to have a sense of purpose and place like that—it was a great honor. Yet toward the end of my junior/senior year, it became a dread. I didn’t always want to go into the dark, to feel what people felt, to linger in the emotional space the Holy Spirit seemed to be creating.

So when I could, I switched to playing guitar. I tried to make worship sets have a different feel to them so the group could go to a different place with God. After a couple of our Friday night meetings, my good friend Matt called me out on it. “What’s going on, Dave? Where were we headed? That felt like a concert.”

I couldn’t answer him, except to ask if he’d like to pick the set for a while. He did, actually. Don’t know why we hadn’t shared that responsibility before.

Relieved, I graduated, went to university, and never consistently led worship again anywhere since.

Now… what’s with these songs?

I still play keyboards, occasionally. At home. And sometimes I really feel it. I’ll be praying while I’m playing and I’ll feel it. Or I’ll have a creative idea that won’t go away until it’s recorded and done, and then I’ll listen to my recording over and over while I pray.

Some of these songs are invitations to pray.

Others are invitations to feel. You may not have any words left to pray for the categories these songs are meant to reflect. Or you may not have been able to pray yet at all, the weight of the situation has been so overwhelming. For me, some of the emotions behind these songs have been brewing for years. Some recordings were taken on the first try, others took multiple attempts—not to get the notes right, but to get the emotions felt.

I share these particular songs to encourage us (myself included) to open up our raw nerves to God, to let ourselves feel it.

The “Pray for” songs are to encourage us to pray into a situation, to intercede, or to worship.

I may also include the occasional duet with my daughter. You know, for fun. Because “fun” should be an emotion too.


  • Pray for Japan

    A collection of songs inspired by dialogue with my missionary friends in Japan

  • Depression

    A collection of songs for empathizing with those suffering from depression

  • Divorce

    A collection for those who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, the ever-rippling shock waves of broken marriage

  • Hope

    For even when we won’t admit we need it

  • Dad/Daughter Duets and 9-Year-Old Jazz
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