History of Hymns: 'My Life Is in You, Lord'
By C. Michael Hawn
“My Life Is in You, Lord”
by Daniel Gardner
The Faith We Sing, 2032
My life is in you, Lord,
my strength is in you, Lord,
in you, it’s in you.
© 1986 Integrity’s Hosanna Music. All rights reserved.
“My Life Is in You” is the most popular and most published song by Michigan native Daniel Gardner (b. 1956). This enthusiastic declaration of praise and commitment is based on Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (KJV).
Gardner, one of four musical children, was the son of Leonard and Anna Rose Gardner, founders of Zion Christian Church in 1955, a non-denominational, independent congregation in Troy, Michigan. Leonard served as the pastor for forty-eight years, and Dan was the music director during much of that time. Daniel graduated from Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan (1988) with a music major. Since he was working full-time, his undergraduate study took ten years.
The song was composed in 1985 during a stressful time in the composer’s life when he was balancing full-time college, full-time worship leader responsibilities at Zion Christian Church, and raising two daughters with his wife. After finishing his homework for a composition class, he rushed to prepare the music for an evening service.
I felt so pressed by the hands of the clock, and I felt a real need for added energy. I knew it would help me if I would relax and wait on God. I sat down at the piano and began to play spontaneously to the Lord, as I often had done during such a time. As I was playing and singing, suddenly from my ear came, ‘My life is in You, Lord.’ The words and melody kept coming until the whole of a song was given to me (cited in Terry, 2008, p. 185).
The song’s energy comes from Gardner’s use of driving syncopation throughout both sections of the song. The rhythm carries the first section, as the melody encompasses only the modest range of a fourth. He contrasts the second section, beginning with “I will praise you with all of my life,” starting in the lower vocal register, gradually rising to nearly an octave.
The song was first published by Zion Christian Church in 1985 but then recorded by Hosanna! Integrity Music with singer Joseph Garlington, bishop and founder of Covenant Church of Pittsburgh, on the album The Solid Rock (1988). Garlington’s ministry catapulted the song to a greater audience. More recently, it was re-released in the Wow Worship series and on an album of songs by leading contemporary Christian artists, Just Worship (2011). Two of Gardner’s other best-known songs, among many carried on CCLI’s SongSelect listing, are “Exalt the Lord, Our God” and “Blessed Be the Rock.”
Joseph Garlington’s recording with Hosanna! Integrity is available YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo62DelNEC4&t=9s. Though this song has been circulated primarily through CCLI charts and recordings, it first appeared in The Celebration Hymnal (1997), followed by Complete Mission Praise (1999), The Faith We Sing (2001), and The Baptist Hymnal (2008).
"Daniel Gardner." The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Canterbury Press, http://www.hymnology.co.uk/d/daniel-gardner.
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).
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.