The Power of Prayer

/ 30 November 2020

Bruce Springsteen has long been my favorite theologian.

He writes and sings and dances of heartache and joy, of love and of loss. Back shortly after September 11, 2001 he released an album entitled The Rising, much of which had been written prior to that day. But the songs spoke so clearly and directly to our losses and our fears.

A few weeks ago he released a new album, Letter to You. Once again most of it was written prior to the pandemic, but he sings with such heartbreaking directness about all sorts of things I’m feeling right now.

His song “One minute you’re here” is a song I’ve been listening to - and crying to - since I first heard it. My brother-in-law died this year, hundreds of miles away, and I have not yet been able to be with my sister to hug her, to cry with her, to remember Louie. This song articulates what I’m feeling so well.

There’s a song entitled “The Power of prayer” which offers poetic traces of the ways in which our prayers rise and may be answered in embodied beauty and joy.

There’s a song entitled “House of a thousand guitars” which notes that “The criminal clown has stolen the throne / He steals what he can never own.” I have no idea what Springsteen was thinking of when he wrote those lines, but I know I was immediately thinking about Trump.

Another song entitled “Rainmaker” observes that “Rainmaker, a little faith for hire / Rainmaker, the house is on fire / Rainmaker, take everything you have / Sometimes folks need to believe in something so bad, so bad, so bad / They’ll hire a rainmaker / They come ‘cause they can’t stand the pain / Of another long hot day of no rain / ‘Cause they don’t care or understand / What it really takes for the sky to open up the land.”

There are so many more songs on this album that I love! There’s a song that wonders aloud “If I was a priest” that is a powerful imagination of Jesus as a sheriff and Mary running the Holy Grail saloon.

There is also a beautifully filmed black and white film of the recording of this album available on AppleTV+. I wish I could figure out how to teach a course that uses this album as a primary text. I need to keep working on it!

Each day I praise God for creating this wonderful songwriter/singer who continues to breathe life into theology in ways that I can cry and dance to.