As The Deer Pants For The Water – Psalm 42:1-2

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2 NKJV)

I have long loved the worship song “As the Deer” that was written with the verses of Psalm 42: 1 as their text.

“As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee.

You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship thee.


You alone are my strength and shield; To you alone may my spirit yield.

You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship thee.

You’re my friend and you are my brother, even though you are a king.

I love you more than any other, so much more than anything. “


The writer of these infamous words, Marty Nystrom, relates the following account of the birth of this popular worship song:

In 1984 I was a school teacher in Seattle, and since I had the summer off I decided to go back to Bible College, but only for the summer term. I headed for Dallas, Texas and Christ For the Nations Institute. Little did I know what was about to happen to me, especially with all that I would be exposed to and the worship emphasis of the school. I had a roommate at CFNI who was a very vibrant Christian. He challenged me to go on a fast – a period of time when a person refrains from eating solid food in order to give time to the reading of the Bible and to prayer.

I took up the challenge, and on the 19th day of the fast I found myself sitting at a piano trying to write a song. I was simply playing chord progressions when I noticed a Bible on the music stand of the piano. It was open to Psalm 42. My eyes fell on the first verse of that chapter. After reading the verse I began to sing its message, right off the page. I wrote the first verse and the chorus of a song, pretty much straight through. The whole of the adventure was completed in a matter of minutes. I then repeated the song I had just written. I wanted to seal it in my mind.”

I had no intention of showing the song to anyone. It was to be for my own devotional time with the Lord. However, before leaving the school to go back to Seattle, I did share it with one person, Dave Butterbaugh. He introduced it to the students of the school and it became a favorite.”

The words and the melody that Marty composed resonated with so many people. Since the introduction of the song, it has been translated into several languages and is sung in churches worldwide. It has become one of my personal favorites among worship songs. I find myself singing it often.

And when I sing it – I picture this in my mind:

A thirsty deer in search of some water. A deer that longs for a drink of cool, refreshing water. Recently I had a conversation with a “hunter” friend of mine who told me some things about deer that I didn’t know. Not being a hunter myself (sorry, no interest there!) I did find what he told me very interesting. He said that deer are very fussy about where they drink. A deer will never stop and drink water from any source unless it feels perfectly safe at that water hole. The environment around that deer needs to be a quiet and calm place. It needs to be free from any foreign scents that would disturb the deer. There should be no sounds of a predator and not any sounds and scents of eminent danger to that deer causing it to run far away. Only when the deer feels perfectly safe, will that deer drop its head toward the water source and have a drink. It’s the peace and silence, the welcome of refreshment, that draws the deer near to the water. I never knew that about deer, but it makes perfect sense to me and makes me respect this beautiful animal even more.

I also think about how this relates to our approaching our God. For me, just like the deer, it is the peaceful, quiet calm of God’s person and presence that draws me close to Him. Happily I can draw near to Him anytime I want to. I can draw even closer to Him when I am free of distractions from the world around me or free from the predator (Satan) who seeks to devour me. I can choose to “draw near” and drink from His source of refreshing water as often as my heart desires.

Yet, these first two verses of Psalm 42 leave me with a question to ponder: Does my soul really “panteth” for You, O God? Does my soul thirst for the Lord as it should?

The Psalmist David, stated his thoughts with a bold confidence that I wish I had. He says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” His desire is really clear. The Psalmist thirsted after God just as the deer pants after the cool refreshing water.

Yes, I believe in God. Yes, I daily read God’s Word and spend time in prayer. Yes, I attend church and serve God in many different ways. But, do I really thirst after God?

Do I seek after those “environments” where I can find true peace and quiet to meet with my God? Do I make sure that there will be no interruptions, distractions, and predators that could snatch away my attention from my God? Once I have gotten to the source of water, do I take a quick lap or do I linger long, drinking in God’s pure refreshment? All questions worth pondering!

Meanwhile, my heart shall enjoy singing once more Marty Nystrom’s infamous worship song – – “As the deer panteth for the water….”

Are YOU singing along with me??

2 Comments on “As The Deer Pants For The Water – Psalm 42:1-2

  1. A great post. I love the story about how the song came about. And you have a great list of questions at the end for us to ask ourselves…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, I thought it was a cool story. One just never knows how God can use something that we do when it is given to Him. That song was intended as a personal worship song – but it has become universally loved and sung by many people, in many languages. Imagine that song being sung in heaven’s choir!


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