This song showed up in a dream one morning. I was asleep at the time, minding my own business, when the words “Give us a river. . .” started singing in the dream. When I awoke, the music stayed with me. The full song was written a few minutes later.
When I think of the lyrics of this song, I am reminded of this passage from Psalm 63:
“I’ve worked up such a thirst for God,
Travelling across dry and weary deserts.
So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,
Drinking in your strength and glory.” (Psalm 63:1-2 MSG)
I often use metaphors of water in my writing which you may have noticed (see my song “Lord of the Oceans” for further displays of aquatic analogies). The metaphorical river has frequently been used in Christian circles to describe the Holy Spirit. When I was growing up, our church had a number of emergent river songs marking a time of spiritual renewal and revival. This metaphor continues to influence my writing.
Revival is generally a fitting prayer for the church. It is appropriate for people to pray that God will bring their hearts back to him when they have wandered, and to pray for his refreshment when they are worn out. It is probably a good prayer to pray most days.
In centuries gone by, God’s people have prayed for revival. Sometimes revival has come to the world during wartime when hope has plummeted. At other times revival has come to the church when the church has wandered far from God. There have even been occasions when God has poured out revival on his people unbidden.
So why pray for revival now? Personally I see a lot of complacency and pewsitting (see my song “Pewsitter”) in the affluent area in which I reside. It seems to me that affluence successfully distracts us from God. It makes us so comfortable in this world that we forget we don’t belong here. It makes us unwilling to risk all for the sake of following Christ. It encourages idolatry in our hearts.
I also see a lot of weariness in the church. Some people have been serving God for a long time and they are tired. There is disillusionment and burnout plaguing the church. We need a river.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of complacency in my own life. I’m tired of treating God like an afterthought to my day. I’m tired of living in a narcissistic society indifferent to Christ. I am so, so tired of internal church politics. I’m sick to death of the beige factor in our worship, our services, our fellowship, our day-to-day living. I want God. I want a river.
“River” is a candid and bold request for God’s intervention. It is a plea for God’s refreshing and a prayer for revival. It recognises the futility of our own efforts. It acknowledges the need for rest, for restoration of his joy and for a power that is beyond our own. It is a cry from the deathbed of one who has come to the end of themselves. It is an all-in, life-on-the-line kind of prayer.
As you listen to “River”, I hope you will join me in crying out to God. Give us a river, Lord, or we will die.