Home Worship Planning History of Hymns History of Hymns: 'Lord, I Lift Your Name on High'

History of Hymns: 'Lord, I Lift Your Name on High'

By C. Michael Hawn

Rick Founds headshot
Rick Founds

“Lord, I Lift Your Name on High”
by Rick Founds
The Faith We Sing, 2088

For complete lyrics, see https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/5880262.

Though California artist Rick Founds (b. 1954) has more than two hundred songs listed in CCLI’s [Christian Copyright Licensing International] Song Select, he is known primarily for this song composed in 1989. CCLI’s Top 25 Songs recorded “Lord, I lift” as the number one song sung in American churches between 1995 and 2002 for seven and a half years, the only song with this distinction. Worship Leader columnist Phil Christensen and novelist Shari MacDonald give “Lord, I lift” high praise:

The song is as effective in a small, intimate group as a public praise outreach. Methodist junior-high kids settle into the song as sweetly as Baptist senior citizens . . . Rick Founds’s little four-chord flock-rocker has become known and loved internationally. It hurdles denominational barriers effortlessly and is sung in every conceivable musical style. . . More than an accessible and catchy praise song, “Lord, I Lift” accomplishes something priceless: it summarizes the whole gospel, responds with adoration, then places it on the lips of uncounted millions. (Christensen and MacDonald, 2000., p. 112)

The song’s origins, however, are humble. The morning of the composition was conceived, Founds had read an article on the hydraulics of the water cycle—how vapor, clouds, rain, and streams form and rise again to the clouds, replenishing the earth. Upon reflection, Founds found a similar cycle in Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. He then referred to his 1980s Macintosh computer with a disc that contained the entire Bible. Following his daily devotional practice, Founds read the scripture scrolling on his computer screen as he played his guitar, alternating Old and New Testament passages.

One particular day, as I was having my devotional period, the Lord impressed on my heart that his work on our behalf was a cycle of events—Christ came from heaven to earth, gave his life on the cross for us, was buried, and three days later rose from the dead. He then went back to his heavenly Father, making the cycle and our salvation complete. That, essentially, is the lyric of the song. I picked up my guitar and began to sing, “Lord, I lift Your name on high.” (Terry, 2008, p. 169)

Though the song’s reception at an evening Bible study was positive, Founds had no idea it would become his best-known composition. For him, it was simply another of the many songs he was writing at the time. He was serving as the musician for a large congregation in California. Nearby, Maranatha! Music, the leading publisher and recording studio for contemporary Christian music of that time, soon picked up the song, and it spread quickly. (For the Maranatha! Music recording, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVqWEtfpTgo.) The evangelical men’s movement, Promise Keepers, founded in Colorado in 1990, began using the song in rallies in English and Spanish, giving it international exposure. (For a Promise Keepers video, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Na--ZWZziDY.)

The refrain’s theme is one of adoration. Though the specific passages Founds reviewed when composing the song are not certain, evidence of its biblical foundations is apparent. The following are some possibilities from the Authorized King James Version:

Lord, I lift your name on high

Psalm 63:4: “Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.”

Lord, I love to sing your praises.

Psalm 9:2: “I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.”

I’m so glad you’re in my life.

Psalm 16:11: “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

I’m so glad you came to save us.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The stanza that bridges the refrain is, indeed, sweeping in scope:

You came from heaven to earth to show the way

Luke 2:11; John 14:6

From earth to the cross my debt to pay

Galatians 6:14; Ephesians 2:16; Philippians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 2:2

From the cross to the grave

Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 15:55; 2 Corinthians 5:15

From the grave to the sky

Romans 8:34; 14:9; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:14

This bridge is reminiscent of the final line of stanza 4 of Charles Wesley’s “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (1739) [The United Methodist Hymnal, 302] with the breathtaking sweep of salvation, especially in the last line of the stanza. The entire stanza follows:

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Founds is pleased with the various ways congregations have interpreted the song—translating it into numerous languages (at least twenty, according to Wikipedia) and adapting it to a wide range of musical styles from gospel and country to reggae, rap, and hip hop (Hear a bilingual Latinx recording at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhQIyhMZquY.)

Rick Doyle Founds, the son of Doyle and Lorraine Founds, was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, in December 1954. His love for music was evident from an early age, and by the time he was ten years old, he had already composed several songs for the Sunday school in his church. As a young person, he pursued guitar and continued his study with music courses in college (Terry, 2008, p. 168). He has produced more than ten albums and was the first recipient of the CCLI GMA [Gospel Music Association] Honors Milestone Award (2018). Other frequently sung songs include “I Love Your Grace,” “Jesus, Mighty God,” I Need You,” and “Jesus, Draw Me Close.” Founds continues to perform, living with his wife Debbie in Idaho. He participates in the worship team at The Altar Church, Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, frequently. Recently, he has produced a series of YouTube videos from his home titled “Praise with the Parrot,” where he shares a brief reflection and sings both new and old songs, accompanied by the piano and his parrot, Popeye (with additional harmony occasionally provided by his labradoodle). For a video posted in June 2022, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wulzcVlY-A.


Paulette Britton, “Fallbrook's Rick Founds Honored at Gospel Music Awards,” Village News (July 9, 2018), https://www.villagenews.com/story/2018/06/21/entertainment/fallbrooks-rick-founds-honored-at-gospel-music-awards/53337.html (accessed August 9, 2022).

Paul Christensen and Shari MacDonald, Our God Reigns: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Praise and Worship Songs (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2000).

Rick Founds Music, http://www.rickfounds.com/storiessuch.html (accessed August 9, 2022).

_____, “The Interview—Rick Founds,” CCLI (posted May 11, 2018), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEyXyFhZoMk (accessed August 9, 2022).

Lindsay Terry, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever: The Stories Behind 100 of the World’s Most Popular Worship Songs (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008).

Scripture quotations from The Authorized (King James) Version. Rights in the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom are vested in the Crown. Reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.

C. Michael Hawn, D.M.A., F.H.S., is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Adjunct Professor, and Director, Doctor of Pastoral Music Program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

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