C.S. Lewis, the former atheist turned Christian apologist, once famously said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
I can identify with Lewis’ statement. When I’m worried, upset, frustrated, or angry taking time to pray can turn down the heat and silence the negative voices in my head. I can often literally feel a change come over me. God hasn’t changed. It is my focus that has changed.
The same thing can happen when someone prays aloud for me. There is a healing quality in their words as they attend to the pain in my heart. I am often comforted and uplifted.
When someone I care about is dealing with a heavy burden I’m changed by praying for him or her. Our connectedness as sons and daughters of the living God is awakened within me as I speak words of compassion and empathy.
Healing Prayer in Song
The power of healing prayer in song is something with which I naturally have had experience. There have been many times I’ve written a song intending it to be a prayer. And then there have been other times when I’ve written a song and not realized until later that it was a prayer. Such was the case with Not too Far from Here.
I remember lying on the floor of my music room with my lyric pad in front of me working on the lyric to the bridge of that song. (Note: The best lyrics are very often found nearest to the ground)
This is what I wrote:
Help me Lord not to turn away from pain
Help me not to rest while those around me weep
Give me your strength and compassion
When somebody finds the road of life too steep
The song was recorded and initially released by Kim Boyce and became a #1 single on inspirational radio and then dropped off the charts and I thought that was it.
A few years later I was in a songwriting session at Word Music working on a song with Ty Lacy, my co-writer on Not too Far from Here, when someone came in and asked if we had heard about what happened in Oklahoma. Of course, they were referring to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.
I remember sitting on my bed that afternoon trying to find words to pray for the victims and their families. Nothing would come. I kept thinking about the parents who had left their children in the day care facility at the building. I couldn’t bear to think of their agonizing pain and how inconsolable they must be. Words just completely failed me.
When I heard later that Not too Far from Here had been sung at the memorial service in Oklahoma City I was again speechless. Then I realized. The words I had written on the floor of my music room two years earlier were my prayer.
Praying through song on purpose
When my prayer group partners and co-writers Scott Krippayne & Tony Wood set out to write Twenty Three it was our intent to put the Twenty Third Psalm to music verbatim. This enduring scripture is a testament to the power of healing prayer.
Though David’s words are written about God rather than to God, they have been claimed and served as a prayer of the people for centuries. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a memorial service where the psalm was not read or printed.
When put to music these words speak even more deeply to the sacred places in all of us. One moment the God who walks with us soothes our spirits. The next we are at peace as God sits with us in our sadness. Finally our spirits soar in gratitude for the goodness and love of our loving Creator.
There are all kinds of ways to pray. Whether you pray in silence by yourself, out loud with others, or through the melody and lyric of songs in worship, I hope you will be blessed today by the power of prayer. For anytime we pray, we gladden the heart of God and give ourselves the gift of acknowledging God’s presence and care for us.