"Can You Present another Song?"

Song: "I Exalt Thee"

 

"For thou, Lord, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods" (Ps. 97:9).

Pete Sanchez was born in Houston, Texas, in 1948, to Bonnie and Pete Sanchez, Sr. He was one of eight children, and music became important to Sanchez early in life. He said, "I grew up in a broken and disadvantaged Hispanic home. The church became a refuge for me. A kind church organist took me under her wing and encouraged me. I started learning to play the piano at about age seventeen."

Pete is now the dean of education for Integrity Worship Institute. In an interview in late 2001, I asked Pastor Sanchez to tell me just how he came to write his very popular song.

"It was during one of those quiet times with the Lord that I came across a rather obscure verse, when thinking of the whole body of the Psalms, Psalm 979, For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.' I wrote a tune so that I could sing those words.

"In 1975, during my quiet sessions with the Lord, I would often sit at the piano and sing the first half of what is now the song I Exalt Thee.' Each time I worshiped him in that manner, that song would come out. I often sensed that something was lacking at the end of the song, but I didn't know just what. But I seemed to be content with what the Lord had already given me. After all, I was the only one hearing or singing it, nor was I concerned that anyone else would ever hear it.

"The following year, sometime in the spring, I was waiting one Sunday morning for my wife to finish getting dressed for church. As was my habit, I sat down at the piano and began to sing. This time, as I got to the end of my song, I stepped into another room.' A new chorus for the song was given to me. I knew as I began to sing it that something special was taking place in my life. It was a very powerful moment.

"When I finished it, I thought, Well, something just happened, but I don't know just what.' I continued to think that the song was only for me, for my private times with the Lord, so I didn't mention it to anyone else. My wife, Karen, and I went on to the New Testament Baptist Church in Houston that morning. As things happen that are orchestrated by God, when I reached the church, I was asked to present some special music, so I sang I Exalt Thee.' It had a profound effect on the congregation, which really surprised me.

"I didn't sing it again until a few weeks later when I was asked to attend a songwriters conference in Mississippi. Each of the songwriters, and there were about thirty-five of us, were asked to present three of our songs. I was the last person to present a song. I presented two of my well-written' compositions, and the people politely clapped and seemingly expressed some appreciation.

"I was then asked, Do you have another song you could present?' The only fresh thing I had was I Exalt Thee.' I began to sing my new song, much like the two previous songs, with no visible response. But when I came to the chorus, it was like someone had set off a bomb in the room. People jumped to their feet and sang with their full voices, many of them with their hands in the air. I had never intended to share it except, perhaps, on some special occasion."

One of the greatest blessings concerning his song that has come to Pete Sanchez, Jr. was when he heard a tape recording of a Francis Schaeffer conference overseas. People were singing "I Exalt Thee" in ten different languages all at the same time.

When we come into the presence of the Lord to praise and exalt him, he brings joy and strength into our lives. "In thy presence is fulness of joy" (Ps. 16:11). "The joy of the LORD is your strength" (Neh. 8:10).


© 2008 by Lindsay Terry. Used by permission.

Lindsay Terry has been a song historian for more than 40 years, and has written widely on the background of great hymns and worship songs including the books I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (2008), from which this piece is excerpted, and The Sacrifice of Praise (2002).

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