My 10 Favourite Worship Songs of the 1990s

worship
The following list is compiled from songs released throughout the 1990s which I have picked to be my favorite top 10. Each song has meant something incredibly personal during my years of worship – either personal or corporate.

The listing was originally very Hillsong centric, until hearing He Knows My Name (#5) made me update the list. In the process, Draw Me Close To You (#6) was also added to the list, which meant Your Love and I Will Run To You were dropped off my top 10. Further, as I began filling out commentaries for each song and researching exact years, I realised You Are/You Are God was actually from the 2000s… Also, I had thought Above All was from the 2000s, so these two songs swap out. In effecting these changes this list has achieved greater balance – but has also created the twin influences of Hillsong and Paul Baloche…

All in all, these are all fantastic songs for worship – ranking them is a little unfair, since we all go through different seasons where one song speaks to us. One of the key common threads that prevails across the entire list is that they all are true/proper worship songs – honouring God. What I mean by this is that the songs are melodic, and are not performance driven. All songs were originally written with a piano instrument in mind and are medium paced – a reasonable representation of worship songs from the 1990s.

10. Jesus, What a Beautiful Name

Link: YouTube video

Written by Darlene Zschech in, this is a sweet melodic tune that praises Jesus and is fairly short. Three verses where the first two lines build and then the last two lines resolve it to completion. One of the reasons why I love this worship song is that I have heard renditions of it where the vocals are sung as an echo/round.

The ability of the song to build up within each verse to the final repeated phrase “Jesus, what a beautiful name!” makes this an ideal praise and worship song. Ultimately, there is no other name than Jesus!

9. Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Link: YouTube video

What is likely to be a common theme in this list is that I have picked songs for their simplicity and purity. This song is so simple and flexible I have heard it used in worship in so many different ways – with acoustic guitar, piano, percussion or even vocals only without instruments. Written in 1992 by Daniel Grul, John Ezzy & Steve McPherson, the single verse and chorus allow continuous repetition. In more recent years, a free-worship bridge has been popularised with the lyrics “Worship You, my Lord, until the very end.” Indeed, this song allows for extensive free worship, and as such, is highly conducive for sessions of connecting with the Head/hearing from God via the creative worship approach.

8. Open the Eyes of My Heart

Link: YouTube video

Paul Baloche makes three appearances in my list – first here with his 1997 written song which – according to 25 Songs that Changed the Way we Worship – is an enormously influential song that has changed worship. Today, we probably take the lyrics for granted, but the power of prayer in asking God to open the eyes of our hearts is very much what Paul had in mind when writing to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:18):

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

Combining both Old and New Testament theology, Paul Baloche taps into Isaiah for the chorus proclamation of seeing the Lord high and lifted up, shining in the light of Your glory. Open the Eyes of My Heart has a similar structure and chord progression dynamic to Jesus Lover of My Soul in that both create space for free worship. An instrumental can be inserted in between verse and chorus to allow the Holy Spirit to flow.

7. Draw Me Close To You

Link: YouTube video

Kelly Carpenter wrote this song in 1994, and since then, this song has exploded into churches globally. Personally, whilst there are subtle differences, I have sometimes found it is very similar to He Knows My Name. Both songs focus on personal worship and connection to God. The chorus helps us to proclaim: “You’re all I want! You’re all I’ve every needed” and this can be incredibly soul-lifting during trying and testing times. Interestingly, when we analyse the lyrics deeper, such as the commentary written in the article Entering the “Draw Me Close” Conversation, it reveals that whilst it is an incredibly touching song – it also lacks theological and biblical depth! The article also points to other commentaries written up on the whole devotion vs doctrine debate and also concludes that there are better songs that avoid this controversy which can be selected by worship teams for use in corporate worship.

6. Above All

Link: YouTube video

Cowritten by Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc in 1998-1999, it is amazing to realise now that this song took over a year to perfect, given the final masterpiece that we all love nowadays. The pure sanctity of the chorus exemplifies why Above All is indeed a worthy song of praise – “Crucified, laid behind the stone. You lived and died, rejected and alone. Like a rose, trampled on the ground. You thought of me, above all.” The interesting thing about the verse and chorus being written separately is that in the verse, Paul definitely has the focus on the Lord; the Lord is above all things, whereas the chorus adds a unique twist in that we are added to the mix – and simply magnifies God’s love for us.

Written at the end of the decade, the music style is testament to the evolving nature of Christian worship music. Unlike earlier songs written and selected for this list, Above All has a distinct late 1990s/early 2000s flavour – the tonality is lighter and less piano-driven.

5. He Knows My Name

Link: YouTube video

What’s not to love about this majestic song? It personalized and glorifies God as our all-knowing Father who sees each tear that falls. Written by Paul Baloche and Tommy Walker, the YouTube version linked above includes a commentary from Tommy. The absolute beauty of the chorus declaring “He knows my name! He knows my every thought!” is, as Tommy shares, the core of our heart’s cry – to be loved, to be united with a God who hears our inner most desire. Along with #6 Draw Me Close To You, these two songs help to make my list not 100% Hillsong centric!

Some interesting contrasts can be made between He Knows My Name and Draw Me Close to You. The linguistic differences are evident in the titles alone, and also demonstrate the different positions we approach God from. In this way, He Knows My Name is more objective whereas Draw Me Close to You is highly subjective. This declarative nature and emphasis creates a more powerful and biblically-centred song, avoiding the controversy mentioned above. The integrity of the lyrics here are much more easily aligned with biblical references.

4. Lord I Give You My Heart / This Is My Desire

Link: YouTube video

Written by Reuben Morgan in 1995 for Hillsong, this is one of the most well known devotional songs for Christians. With countless covers/renditions, the complete submission to God that this song compels from the worshipper can lead to amazing encounters with Him. It is thus, not an easy song to sing given the commitment embedded in the the lyrics of “Lord with all my heart, I worship You / All that is within me gives You praise”. However, whenever we lose sight of God and His heavenly eternal perspective, the lyrics of this song should remind us of His sovereignty. “I live for You alone. Every breathe that I take, every moment I’m awake – Lord have Your way in me.”

The longevity of this song, like Jesus Lover of My Soul, has also led to extension lyrics “I give you my heart, I give you my soul. Lord have Your way in me.” that make for an extended free worship bridge.

3. Eagles Wings

Link: YouTube video

Reuben Morgan’s penmanship of Eagles Wings has been a wondrous gift from God celebrated by millions of believers globally. Written as part of the By Your Side annual Hillsong album for 1999, Eagles Wings is another key devotional song that helps our spirits soar (on eagle’s wings!). The lyrics do emphasis God is yet to “Come live in me, all my life – take over. Come breathe in me, and I will rise on eagle’s wings”. The song is actually quite short lyrically, given the single verse and chorus are repeated.

Whilst not as common as the extension lyrics of Lord I Give You My Heart or Jesus Lover of My Soul, I have heard them sung on the odd occasion: “I’m gonna rise, gonna rise. I’m gonna rise, gonna rise. I’m gonna rise, gonna rise on eagle’s wings.”

2. Shout to the Lord

Link: YouTube video

The reason why Shout to the Lord is here at #2 instead of #1 is simply because it’s joyful nature has been sung during more times of joy when I have celebrated blessings from God. In saying that, I do realise that to sing this song during times of sorrow can be equally uplifting. As arguably the most famous of all Christian pop songs, in part due to the mainstream telecast (twice) on American Idol in 2008. The initial performance where the lyrics were adjusted to “My Shepherd, my Saviour”, whilst an unwise and controversial move my the secular producers, backfired when Hillsong requested the repeat performance without alteration to the original lyrics. In this way, God ultimately used the gaffe to ensure twice the publicity and attention.

Darlene Zschech’s 20 minutes of sitting at her childhood piano back in 1993 was truly a God-inspired moment in time. As shared in the Story Behind the Birth of Shout to the Lord, Darlene’s obedience had borne much fruit over the 20 years+ life of the song. Countless renditions and performances and adaptations have made Shout to the Lord one or the most recognized songs championing Christian faith, played millions of times a week in all forms of corporate and personal worship.

1. Power of Your Love / Lord I Come To You

Link: YouTube video

So here we are at my favourite worship song of the 1990s. It is not the best song not has it been without controversy, given the fact that Geoff Bullock himself took to rewriting the lyrics years later. As Geoff explained himself, the original song was written during a time of weakness. The rewritten song lyrics do help to strengthen the theological integrity but make it more difficult to sing when the original lyrics are imprinted already.

The Power of Your Love is my favourite song because it was one of the first worship songs that was newly released during 1993 when I first accepted Christ. No specific worship song has a direct association with that moment of accepting Jesus as Lord but the song was nonetheless a close environmental influence. The first worship album I purchased was The Heavens Shall Declare, by Geoff Bullock. Thus, the first collection of songs that influenced by worship style was piano-centric and technically not Hillsong, although many of Geoff’s songs were written and published through Hillsong. After all, Geoff Bullock was the first worship pastor of Hillsong.

As a Christian pianist, Geoff Bullock was something of an inspiration. I should be clear since Geoff went through a very public fall from grace; I focused on his creative talent, output and songs rather than his personal life. 1992-1994 were the first three years of Hillsong Music under Geoff. His time in the spotlight and talent gave birth to the powerhouse that is Hillsong today. Together with Darlene, the duo propelled Hillsong to the forefront of Christian contemporary worship.

In conclusion, all these songs combine to form the identity of Christian pop music culture during the 1990s. As a decade, the emergence of Hillsong and it’s influence on Christian worship is undeniable. Hillsong have successfully demonstrated that they have remained true to serving God in their annual release of albums, evolving and changing music styles according to the flow of the Holy Spirit across sounds and music styles. This will no doubt be evident in the future postings of My 10 Favourite Worship Songs of the 1980s & 2000s…

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