"Praise Adonai" Story and Paul Baloche Interview

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on June 30, 2011

Q1. Do you have a different objective for different songs you write?

A1. Some songs just come as a byproduct of my relationship with the Lord, through quiet times, journaling, private worship times, phrases. Prayers come out during those times that eventually become songs. Examples for me would be “Open The Eyes Of My Heart” and “Above All”. Those were kind of birthed during little prayer times and quiet times. Even “Revival Fire Fall” came out of a group prayer meeting, hearing different phrases from people praying out.

But then there were some song where maybe there is a specific theme, a particular project or particular artist that is planning to do a project . And “Praise Adonai” was two things. It was on the heels of a trip that my wife and I took to Israel. We listened to the Hebrew prayers being prayed at the wailing wall. And I could hear the word “Adonai” a lot. And that just got me thinking about the name and how that is the name that David used to call upon the Lord. It is just a beautiful expression. That, coupled with Paul Wilbur who was going to do a Messianic project, songs that had a Messianic theme, more of a musically Hebrew feel. That caused me to go more into a minor chord direction. I looked in the psalms for different things : Who is like Him ? Praise Adonai, from the rising of the sun until the end of every day”, that is right out of psalms. “Praise Adonai, all the nations of the earth sing praise”.

Q2. Are there specific elements of Praise that you try to put forth in different songs ?

A2. Not really.

Q3. For this song, what inspired you ?

A3. I think I covered that in question 1. It was two-fold. Initial inspiration of being in Israel and hearing people pray in the Hebrew tongue. That caused me to be aware that people have been singing worship songs to God for thousands of years. This isn’t a “contemporary thing”. Thousand of years ago David said “From the rising of the sun until it goes down, I will praise Adonai”, praise the Lord. That word “The Lord” in the psalms is actually the Hebrew word ‘Adonai”. The reason I went more in a Hebrew kind of chord progression was that the song was originally written for a Paul Wilbur Messianic Praise project. That’s why it starts in A minor, it gives it more of a Hebrew feel.

Q4. Did you have specific scripture references you used

A4. Psalm 113 verse 1 : Praise the Lord, or Praise Adonai if you translate that. Verse 3 : from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Verse 4 : the Lord is exalted over all the nations. All the nations of the earth, all the angels and the saints sing praise. Verse 5 : Who is like the Lord our God ? The one who sits enthroned on high. That was sort of the opening verse : Who is like Him … the Lion and the Lamb, seated on the throne. Who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth ? That’s where I kind of got that “Who is like the Lord?” I liked starting the song with a question. Also, Revelation chapter 5, verse 5 and 6. Verse 5 says I saw the Lion of Judah, verse 6 says : “I saw the Lamb standing in the center of the throne.” Those are the references.

Q5. What types of situations inspire you to write.

A5. Times of worship inspire me to write worship songs. Either privately, quietly sitting with a piano or guitar, with my bible open, prayerfully looking through scripture with an instrument in my hand. Just kind of singing portions of scripture and also journaling, singing portions of journal entries. Singing prayers…. playing … almost kind of an inspired play … I find that’s where the most honest songs come from.

Second would be during times of corporate worship, in between songs when I’m still playing the chords to the song that I just finished and maybe just kind of hanging there … maybe there’s a line or a phrase that comes to mind …. I just start singing a melody over one or two chords. Many times that will birth a new song idea.

Q6. How have people responded to this song ?

A6. I have heard from a lot of worship leaders that they like to use it as an opening song because it is a good gathering song, calling God’s people to praise God. It is a song of exhortation and admonition. Calling for God’s people to praise Him from the rising of the sun “Come on, let’s sing praise!”. It’s been picked up by many churches rather quickly, perhaps because it’s simple, and perhaps because musically it feels current. The version I did on the album “Open the eyes of my heart” was a little less messianic and a little bit more “alternative rock feel” meets “Middle eastern instrumentation”.

Q7. Do you write something for yourself or do you start with the audience in mind ?

A7. Because I’ve been a worship leader at a local church for many years, it’s important for me to find songs that will inspire the congregation to lift their hearts to God in worship. So just as a worship leader tries to look for good songs, that he feels will inspire the congregation towards the Lord, most of the time, after the initial seed or idea has been birthed in my heart, the second concern is : “How can I capture this idea in a song that’s fresh and inspired but simple enough for the average non-musical person to grab onto quickly and be able to sing it to the Lord?” I like to approach song writing with the mentality of a servant using the tool of songwriting as a way of serving the congregation. Sometimes the songs work well in my church and then find their way into the body if Christ at large. And that’s always a bonus to me.

Of course, it also has to feel believable. I have to be able to sing and say it honestly : this is a true prayer from my heart. So it’s a little of both, isn’t it ? I write it for myself but I am also writing with an audience in mind.

Q8. How do you start writing music ?

A8. For many years, I was mostly a guitar player for others but I have always been a journal keeper. I would always write down thoughts and prayers and poems in my journal. It wasn’t until I met Kelly Willard in the mid-eighties and observed how she would just sing her prayers and how they became songs that I began to try to do the same thing. Little by little, I would begin to sing prayer ideas and I would play them for Kelly and she was an encouragement to me to keep trying, to keep doing it not for anyone else, but because it was a fun creative way to express my love to God and to write these prayer songs to Him. As a byproduct, those songs found their way into the church. One of the first songs that I wrote was “I Love to be in your Presence”.

Q9. What led you into writing Praise and Worship ?

A9. It was being around Kelly Willard, playing guitar for her in the mid-eighties and seeing how she would just sing her prayers to God. Many times those simple prayers songs became choruses and Praise and Worship songs. A few years later, I had the opportunity to work with Lenny Leblanc as a guitarist and observed how he too, would sing these prayerful expressions and how they became simple choruses that the church could sing. I kind of followed their example.

Q10. Did you desire to write original songs to use when you lead ?

A10. Not at first, but as a worship leader in a church, I would find songs that are already written for us to sing. At times there were certain topics or themes that I wished there was a song for and couldn’t find one. Sometimes that would stir my heart to try to write something that I hadn’t heard said before that we could use during our services.

Q11. Is it different for you to lead with original songs than with music other people wrote ?

A11. Whether I wrote it or someone else wrote it, I find myself looking for songs that sound honest and authentic. When I hear a song that says something in a way that I never thought of saying it before. For instance, when at Valentine’s day I’ll go to the store and try to find a card for my wife, I’ll try to find the right card that says something to her that maybe I would have never thought of myself. And it is kind of like that with other people’s songs. But then it is also nice to write a little postscript in that card as well, so I have words that someone else came up with, but the I also put in some of my own personal thoughts. To me, that’s the balance in Praise and Worship. I like to use other people’s songs when they say something in a way that I wish I had thought of : “Oh yeah, that’s a beautiful expression. I want to say that to you Lord.” But I also love the chance to say things to Him that come out of my heart as well.

Q12. What Praise and Worship music do you spend the most time with ?

A12. I listen to everything.

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