Pop music isn’t my thing. I love some classic rock, especially bands like Boston and Def Leppard; I thrive on jazz from the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, but especially Cannonball Adderley and Thelonious Monk; and I worship by singing along with the monks of Taize. I do not much care for modern pop music, but while I worked at Mercer, I gained a great education in it anyway because the students loved it. One artist in particular stood out during that time, as she was about the biggest thing going. Her music was especially good for the bar and club scenes, as most of her songs focused on drinking, on partying, and on other topics common to the pop music genre.
She disappeared for about four years, with rumors of rehab and such, only to reemerge this past month with a new album. I discovered this new album through, of all places, my daily United Methodist News Service email newsletter. I read with curiosity the post and then watched her latest music video, “Praying.” Throughout the video, this partying pop star of the early 2010s recounts how prayer has saved her, how prayer is teaching her forgiveness, how prayer is restoring her soul. The video is full of rich imagery of her climbing a mountain toward God, of kneeling at an altar to pray, of the tail of a whale, which I interpret as referencing the prayer of thanksgiving Jonah prayed in the belly of the whale. I kept waiting for the ironic twist, the shift in the video to disprove all of her piety. Instead, the video stays true to the imagery and to the power of prayer, making clear that prayer is the reason for the transformation of this artist.
If you know your early 2010s pop music, I imagine you’ll be as surprised as I was to know that this artist singing about the power of prayer is Kesha. The video is raw, it’s authentic, and its powerful in laying bare the transformative power of prayer. It seems that, in a dark moment of her life, Kesha didn’t know what else to do besides pray, so she did, and she found transformation and a path forward because of it. That’s the power of prayer.
That’s why we’ve been focusing so much on prayer as a church. Through the prayer chapel, new prayer groups like The Uplifters, interactive prayer times during the worship services, and other ways, we have renewed our commitment as a church to pray, and I hope you have experienced its transformative power in your life. As we march into the fall, as life gets busy, as the school year hits a routine, I invite you to make time daily for prayer. It may not be clear how it’s working at first, it might take a lot of discipline to get yourself in the habit because it might seem kind of boring, but guaranteed, it will have an impact, a transformative power on your soul and on the life of this church. For a praying people are a vital people, and a praying church is a powerful force for good.
*Kesha’s video is available online but, please note, it contains some challenging imagery that may not be suitable for all audiences.