“Open the Eyes of My Heart”
TITLE: "Open the Eyes of My Heart"
AUTHOR: Paul Baloche
TUNE: EYES OF MY HEART
COMPOSER: Paul Baloche
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3008
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 1:18; Isaiah 6:1-3; Psalm 119:18; Matthew 5:8
TOPIC: eyes, see(ing), glory, heart, high and lifted up, holiness, light, open(ness), power and might, shine, shining
Modern worship songs can come from or be inspired by a variety of things: a sermon, an experience, an emotion, a prayer, a Scripture, a conversation, and certainly by God. Many of these modern songs are simple, heart-felt, and expressive of something internal to the musician. An unfortunate joke is often made referring to them as 7-11 songs; that is, seven words repeated eleven times. True enough, many of them have few words and are sung over and over, as are the songs of Taizé.
One reason for their simple form and repeated performance lies in how they are written. In much contemporary and charismatic worship today, music is often spontaneous and improvised. As the people pray, for instance, musicians may be accompanying the prayer with improvised chords and phrases, and a worship leader may actually be singing short spontaneous phrases of praise, confession, thanksgiving, and petition as part of leading the congregation in prayer. At other times, the congregation is encouraged and led to actually sing their own phrases of prayer, also improvised, not unlike the Korean practice of Tonsung Kido (see The United Methodist Book of Worship, no. 446).
Such was the setting for Paul Baloche's composing this favorite contemporary prayer song. He had heard the pastor often pray before preaching, "Lord, I pray that you will open the eyes of our hearts as we open up your word." In the prayer time that followed that message, Baloche began to play softly on his guitar, improvising, "noodling" as he called it, and improvising the melody and chords that would become this song. As the prayer continued he added a second phrase, "We want to see you, Jesus." It is the manner in which so many contemporary choruses and prayer songs have been written. He added the Isaiah 6:1-3 "high and lifted up…holy, holy, holy" Scripture to become the second part of the song.
At this writing, the song is now fifteen years old and has become one of the most popular, most sung of all contemporary worship songs.
The lyric has two parts. Part A includes the Ephesians 1:18 reference, "with the eyes of your heart enlightened…" Note that it's not actually talking about seeing with our eyes here, but figuratively about our "heart's eyes"; that is, dealing with emotion, feelings, and experience as a means of knowing. It is a prayer that God will move in our hearts to help us to "see" or know the reality or presence of God. Part B brings in the Isaiah 6:1-3 passage as a description of the God we will "see" or know. It is God, royal and supreme, high and lofty, robed and in the temple, attended by angelic beings. It is God, in Baloche's words, "shining in the light of your glory, pouring out power and love." And our response to that deep emotional vision is to sing "Holy, holy, holy" along with the angels. Part A is our prayer asking God to become known to us. Part B is our response to that becoming known.
Perhaps intuitively, perhaps by design, Baloche uses the pitch on B almost as a reciting tone, as in the ancient manner of singing the Psalms. It is the most important pitch in both parts A and B. The basic, simple melody is entirely within the style of improvised, spontaneous charismatic prayer music -- short, diatonic, few chord changes, prevalence of step-wise melodic motion and repeated notes rather than intervals, rising at the start of the phrase, descending on the close. The optional a capella closing allows the song to conclude in an indetermined manner, with singers continuing or stopping their singing as they are led, much as charismatic group prayer concludes. It is a recognition that sometimes it may be better for musicians and leaders to be silent and let the Spirit direct things.