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41NNI6qzftL._SS500The earliest songs I can remember learning were hymns. From the time I was a toddler in the church nursery, I heard the great songs of the Christian faith. As a writer, I've grown to appreciate more and more the theological substance and artistic beauty of the hymns that have stood the test of time.

In April, I had a good conversation about hymn writing with Matt Boswell at The Gospel Coalition's National Conference. I've long appreciated Matt's work, and I told him I was interested in writing lyrics for the Church to sing. He encouraged me to start with an idea--a song title--for which he would develop a melody.

Right now, I serve as the primary teaching pastor at my church. Every week, I pray that the Spirit would move among us--showing us the glory of Jesus through his Word, through our worship, and in our church's service to the community. I wanted to put those prayers to music, so that our congregation could sing/pray together. That's how the title came about: "O Spirit, Lift Our Eyes to Jesus." Once we had the title, Matt got to work on the melody, and I worked on the words.

The first verse asks the Spirit to lift our eyes to Jesus, to help us see how all the Bible points to him. As a preacher, I want my congregation to have an Emmaus road experience every Sunday, so that our hearts "burn within us" when we see in all the Scriptures Jesus, the "Hero of our great redemption." "Clouds of sin and sorrow" blind us from his beauty, and so we pray that the Spirit would open our eyes, so we can see him and sing his praises.

O Spirit, lift our eyes to Jesus
Help us see him in your word
The Hero of our great redemption
Suffering Savior, Risen Lord.

Over clouds of sin and sorrow
Raise us up to see our King
O, make our hearts to burn within us
Open eyes, and we will sing.

Verse 2 asks the Spirit to lift our hearts to Jesus. Here, we pray that the Spirit would engage our emotions and affections until we find our full satisfaction in him. First, we see Jesus in the Word (verse 1), and now we pray for God to energize our hearts, so that he becomes our "sole delight." Too often our hearts are cold. That's why we need God's kindness to overwhelm us, his gospel to wake us up from worldly slumbers, and set "set our souls ablaze." Verse 2 alludes to the Lord's Table, with Jesus as the "ever-living bread from heaven" who satisfies "hungry beggars." Liturgically minded worship leaders will notice my nod to the sursum corda here, where we lift up our hearts to the Lord and pray we "taste his goodness."

O Spirit, lift our hearts to Jesus
Make His love our sole delight
With ever-living bread from heaven
Hungry beggars, satisfy

Overwhelm cold hearts with kindness
Wake us with good news of grace
O, Lift us up to taste His goodness
Come and set our souls ablaze

Verse 3 is all about mission. After we've prayed the Spirit would lift our eyes to see Jesus in the Word, and lift our hearts to taste his goodness, we pray the Spirit would lift our hands to the Lord in service. True Christianity engages our heads, our hearts, and our hands. When the worship service concludes, our service as God's people is just beginning. Throughout the week, we need the Spirit's "strength to do his will" from a heart of "true compassion." It is not the command of the Lord that breaks down "our hearts' resistance" to obedience; it is the "beauty of his scars" that frees us "for love and service" and replaces our self-centeredness with the love of Jesus.

O Spirit, lift our hands to Jesus
Give us strength to do His will
With open arms and true compassion
His commands we would fulfill

Overcome our hearts' resistance
With the beauty of His scars
O, Set us free for love and service
Make His hands and heart be ours

This is my first attempt at writing a hymn. I'm grateful for the beautiful melody that Matt Boswell gave these words, and I pray the hymn serves the church well.

Below you’ll find Matt Boswell’s rough-cut version of the song. I’ve also attached the LifeWayWorship version. You can go here to find chord charts and the lead sheet, piano accompaniment, and so on.


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15 thoughts on “The Story Behind a Hymn I Wrote with Matt Boswell: O Spirit, Lift Our Eyes to Jesus”

  1. Trevin—I love it. I just listened to the roughcut with tears running down my face and hands uplifted. Thank you for helping me worship Jesus tonight in this hotel room.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      Oh, thank you, Leslie. I’m glad I could lead you in worship this way!

  2. Trillia says:

    How incredible, Trevin! Well done on this. I love hymns.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      Thanks, Trillia! And congratulations on your new book.

  3. Ciarán K. says:

    The YouTube video doesn’t seem to be available for those outside the US. Any chance you could remedy that?

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      I’ll check on that!

    2. Andrew Heyd says:

      Ditto in the Philippines. Not available but would love to hear! Thanks

  4. PRASHANT ASARI says:

    YouTube link Not available in India. But lyrics are amazing. Let me savor the lyrics till I hear the melody.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      The melody is available at LifeWayWorship.com, if you search it there.

  5. Matt Sliger says:

    Praying the Lord uses this, Trevin. Nicely done.

  6. Lynn Drewry says:

    Beautiful and meaningful words with a lovely singable melody! This hymn is bound to become a favorite!

  7. Martin says:

    Nice work, Trevin. I’ve sent the song to our chief worship leader. We do a lot of contemporary songs and a few hymns. I think this one will fit in nicely -easy for the congregation to sing, good melody and words.I may do it when I lead.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      Glad to hear that, Martin. I pray it blesses your congregation!

  8. Greg says:

    Thank you for your writing and your ministry. As I listen to it, especially over the third line of each stanza, I can’t help but hear the hymn tune “Beach Spring.” (“Come All Christians, Be Committed”). With the slightest of modifications, your text fists that tune very well. Did either of you toss around the idea of using that tune?

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      I’m not familiar with that one, but Matt will have to speak to whether or not he was considering that tune.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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