For African American Music Appreciation Month, we asked Master of Divinity student and Truett Chapel Coordinator Matthew Davis to provide a recommendation list of worship songs written and/or recorded by African American artists:
"'Total Praise' is a staple in the African-American gospel music repertoire. With lyrics derived from Psalm 121, 'Total Praise' is a song of dependence and trust in the One in whom our help comes from. No matter what season of life we are in, this song calls for us to praise the Lord anyhow, because we understand that our troubles will pass, for God is with us through all of it."
"The lifting up of hands in worship expresses two distinct ideas: supplication and blessing. The outstretching of hands signifies the yearning of one’s spirit—the yearning for a response from God. Hands are lifted up as a symbol of prayer and an act of surrender and dependence on God. Lifted hands also represent a blessing to God. As we lift hands in praise and worship, our lifted hands should be full of fresh expression and release of thankfulness and love flowing from our hearts to God. McAllister’s praise anthem embodies the scripture Psalm 63:4: 'So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.'"
"'Thus says the Lord to you: "Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf."' (2 Chronicles 20:15,17 NRSV). As children of God, it is certain that Satan will rage against us; these struggles will bring frustration, sadness, hurt, and pain. What an assurance knowing Jesus hears, sees, and feels all that we experience daily! God’s mighty power will deliver us; we are called to stand still and see the victory!"
"'Sometimes you have to encourage yourself! Sometimes you have to speak victory during the test!' When the pressures of life seem to weigh us down, silence may sound like the easy option. As believers, we have to understand that our words do have power, so instead of silence, choose the sound of victory and speak the promises of God over yourself."
"I was introduced to this song in 2017, and the chorus alone brought tears to my eyes: Way Maker. Miracle Worker. Promise Keeper. Light in the Darkness. My God. We sang this song in Chapel two semesters ago in Spanish and English, and what a powerful moment it was to hear both languages ebb and flow in melody. Through these short and simple declarations, we see the greatness of God in all that we face. I pray this song encourages you as it has encouraged me!"
"Sometimes, God answers our prayers by calming the storms in our lives. But sometimes, he allows the storm to continue for reasons we do not understand. In those cases, he answers our prayers by keeping our hope-anchor secure. This song is a declaration that, while the tides and currents of life will occur, our faith is the anchor that will hold us fast until we get through to the other side. My mother sang this song faithfully when I was a child. Although I didn’t fully understand what she was talking about then, I have come to understand it today!"
"'I’m not looking for your resume, I want your Yes.' Tasha Cobbs-Leonard’s testimony of what the Lord was saying to her while hearing this song helps shed this song in a new light for me. Our heart’s desire is to be where the Lord is, but at what cost? Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to move based on God’s word alone? Will faith lead you or will fear keep you? Cobbs-Leonard’s rendition of this song serves as a prayer to be in position to do what is necessary to experience God’s glory."
"Reminding ourselves WHO we are and WHOSE we are in difficult times helps us put our attention on the Provider instead of the Problem. Brown reminds us in the opening verse that God did not create us to worry and did not create us to fear. In the midst of worry and fear, God created us to worship and instructs us to leave all of our concerns in God’s capable and powerful hands. This song is a declaration of faith and trust in the Almighty God, and I pray it encourages you to keep holding on to God’s hand, keep believing, and keep TRUSTING!."
"Imagine inviting a family member or friend to stay with you, and when they arrive, there have been no arrangements made in your home for them to stay; each room is cluttered and filled with unnecessary items and is almost inhabitable. Now imagine inviting God into your spiritual home, and when you open the door, God has to walk in rooms cluttered with technology, entertainment, social media, gossip, and other idols we deem important. There is no room for God to sit and dwell. McReynolds reminds us of the priorities we need to re-arrange and the actions we need to take in order for God to have His rightful place in our hearts and minds. Anything that blocks God from having dominion in our lives, we can MOVE IT OVER!"
"'Thank You' is a staple in African American Church and the Black Gospel choir repertoire. One of the fathers of Contemporary Gospel, Hawkins has penned songs that have transcended across time, genres, and denominations. I grew up on the music of Walter Hawkins and the Love Center Choir; 'Thank You' has always been one of my favorites because it has been around only a year longer than I have been alive! It is important to be reminded that we ought to give thanks to God who has placed us where we are today because all that we have been blessed with can be gone in an instant. I am grateful that God has provided my every need and protected me every step of my journey. All I can say is, 'Thank You Lord! Thank You Lord! I am grateful!'"