Is “Great Are You, Lord” a New Classic? (Song Analysis)

“Great Are You, Lord,” by Leslie Jordan and David Leonard (of All Sons and Daughters) and their producer Jason Ingram, came out in 2013. It has since been recorded by many other artists, including One Sonic Society (Jason Ingram’s band), Casting Crowns, Passion (feat. Matt Redman), and Michael W. Smith.

About “Great Are You, Lord”

Worship Artistry recently featured Ingram on their podcast. As a songwriter, producer, and worship leader, Ingram had many insightful things to say, especially about the process of writing “Great Are You, Lord.” It’s definitely worth a listen if you have the chance.

Ingram explains that Leonard wanted to write a song that would help his home church lean into musical worship a little more than it had in the past. He wanted a song people could engage with and sing loudly. Ingram brought the line:

It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise.

The line was inspired by a Matt Redman quote, “There’s nothing like the people of God in the presence of God pouring out the praises of God.” With that as their starting point, Ingram, Leonard, and Jordan set out to write a song that gave context to the beauty of corporate worship.   

Giving breath back to God

Blogger Kevin Davis writes that after All Sons and Daughters and Ingram had started writing the song, they attended the Passion conference and heard Louie Giglio say in a message that when we sing praise, we are in a sense giving His breath back to Him. He goes on:

As Leslie explained, the song reflects the conviction and strength we can all have as God’s army of dry bones who are filled with God’s breath, and then we can breathe out as prophesied in Ezekiel 37. We live in a fallen and sinful world. One day we will have a new heaven and a new earth, and until then we need to all pray: “It’s Your breath in our lungs / So we pour out our praise to You only.”

In fact, mention of Ezekiel 37 makes an appearance in the bridge:

And all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

Ezekiel 37 is a poignant passage in which the Spirit breathes life into a valley of dead bones and they become resurrected people. The passage has historical implications regarding the people of Israel that are now fulfilled and will be fulfilled further through Christ. We who are in Christ have regenerated hearts and will one day have resurrected bodies. So the lyrics “these bones will sing” remind us that we were once dead, but the Spirit breathed His resurrection life into us—praise God!  

A new classic

“Great Are You, Lord” is currently sitting at #3 on CCLI charts, right next to “This Is Amazing Grace,” “How Great Is Our God,” and “Good Good Father.” It’s always interesting to see which worship songs make the top 10. Though charts aren’t everything, they do give us an idea of what songs churches find most useful for corporate worship. Some songs come and go, but every once in while one stays at the top for a long time, like “How Great Is Our God.”

“Great Are You, Lord” has many identifying marks of a classic. For one, the lyrics are simple and few, which makes the song easy to sing. Additionally, it features a three-chord pattern in the verse and chorus, which makes it easy to play. The tempo has a 6/8 swing and a driving feel, which gives the song a nice energy. Many of these traits are true of other classics, like “How Great Is Our God,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” and “Here I Am To Worship.”

For all these reasons, as well as the song’s solid theology, we believe “Great Are You, Lord” is a new classic.

Lyrics

V1
You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Chorus
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

Bridge
And all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

This is a guest post by music professionals Cody Norris and Stephen Folden.  

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Written by
Matthew Boffey

Matthew Boffey (MDiv, Trinity International University) is the pastor of worship at Christ Church Bellingham. He is also editor-in-chief of Ministry Team magazine, has edited several books, and has written for several blogs and publications, including Relevant online, the Logos blog, and the Faithlife blog.

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