Film / Book Reviews

A guide that gathers the best elements of devotional worship

Feb 2004    

Songs for Renewal
A Devotional Guide to the Riches of Our Best-Loved Songs & Hymns
Authors: Janet Lindeblad Janzen with Richard J. Foster
Publisher: HarperSan Francisco

SONGS FOR RENEWAL is an innovative, devotional book that brings together all the best elements of devotional worship – Scripture, music, prayers and reflection.

The book is written by Janet L. Janzen, a composer and hymn writer, with a foreword by Richard Foster, the well-known author of Celebration of Discipline and Prayer, and founder of RENOVARÉ. It is a resource for spiritual renewal from RENOVARÉ, an infrachurch movement committed to the renewal of the Church.
Richard Foster begins his foreword with the statement that in the Christian life, “devotion and music – praying and singing – are inseparable twins.” What links devotion and music so closely together is the heart. “Prayer is the language of the heart, and music is the medium of the heart.”

Words by themselves are often inadequate to express our heart’s deepest devotion and communion with God. “The medium of music gives wings to our words and freedom to our devotion.”

Psalms, the worship and prayer book of the Church, have been set to music from the earliest times. Many Christians faced martyrdom with songs of devotion on their lips. Throughout history, Christians have used the medium of music to proclaim the word of God, to witness, testify, pray and worship.
In the Introduction, Janzen offers this devotional book as a means to “help us enter into the riches of our Christian songs and hymns and through them into a closer, more intimate walk with God”. She reiterates that in the past, “the Bible and hymnal have been inseparable tools of devotion” but laments that despite the fact that more hymnals are published today than ever before, many Christians do not own one, and “we seem to have less singing in our homes!”

Sad to say, with some churches’ complete reliance on the overhead projection of songs (with no regard to copyrights!), there are probably many young Christians in Singapore who have never held a hymnal or songbook in their hands in church, much less own a hymnal at home.

Janzen hopes that her book will help to get the hymnal out of the pew rack (or retailers’ shelves?) and into the hands, hearts, and lives of the people of God.

Complete with music notations and verses for each song, Songs for Renewal includes Scripture Reading, Scripture Meditation, Reflecting in Song, Questions of Examen and Exercises of Devotion and The Prayer of the Heart for the 55 hymns and songs.

They are from Christianity’s rich and diverse denominational and historical traditions, for example, Greek tradition (Kyrie Eleison), Latin tradition (O Sacred Head Now Wounded), German chorale (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), Wesleyan (O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing), Gospel Hymns (Trust and Obey, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, To God Be the Glory), Spirituals (Down by the Riverside), Traditional Hymns (Jesus Loves Me, Amazing Grace), Taize (Ubi Caritas), Contemporary Songs (Majesty, As the Deer, Jesus Takes Me As I Am, Here I Am, Lord).

The book is not meant for reading in one sitting but is designed for use in our personal meditation, in our families, cell groups or worship. We are exhorted to “Read them. Pray through them. Memorise them. Meditate over them. Above all, sing them!”

A Songs of Renewal audiotape, made especially for use with the book, is available not as a substitute for singing the songs yourselves, but as a teaching tool for those who do not read music easily. It includes some of the newly-published or less familiar songs.

“Let music renew and inspire your daily devotions!” Use Songs for Renewal in your personal devotion, or together with your choir, cell groups or families!

Mary Y. T. Gan is the founding Principal of the Methodist School of Music.

Songs of Renewal is on sale at the Methodist School of Music at $29.90, inclusive of GST.


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