I have become a fan of streaming music. A big fan. And that surprises me because I’m a traditionalist who prefers to own rather than rent, who enjoys the tactile sensation of holding a record, tape, CD, whatever in his hands. And I don’t want artificial intelligence analyzing me and creating playlists for me. I don’t want to contribute to the eventual apocalypse when machines overtake humanity. I’ve seen the movies. No thank you.
But then again…
During the past year, I’ve heard music that brings me back to earlier days (Tears for Fears), discovered newer artists (Billie Eilish), heard music I wouldn’t naturally be inclined towards (the Robert Plant and Alison Kraus collaboration), gone far deeper into well trodden catalogues (The Beatles) understood the fuss over artists that always mystified me (Johnny Cash) and then happened upon songs I like but wouldn’t necessarily seek out. In the latter category is Springsteen’s The Power of Prayer from his most recent project, Letter to You. That song came on this morning as I was driving to work and it towel snapped me back to upright.
The Power of Prayer is more of a love song than anything else, but unlike most love songs which are written about the earliest phases of romance and infatuation, Springsteen, who with his wife, Patti Scialfa, is long, long past that, writes about something else. He offers us a love song about what comes later, what endures, what ultimately has more value, meaning and purpose. It’s about the romance of love after the process of discovery has well departed and when deeper truths have been revealed, truths which portray vulnerability and pain. It’s about remaining in love through the darkest and most difficult hours. It’s about a type of infatuation that accepts the faults of another and simultaneously seeks forgiveness for its own.
So, it’s a love song. But I see something in there about the power of prayer, as in our attempt to connect with divinity. Early on, we can so easily think of prayer as a hotline, as phone a friend, as our way of gaining some measure of control in a world where our actual control is laughably small. But then we mature, we move forward through time and experience a life full of bumps and bruises and, if we’re fortunate, we learn to stand back up, dust ourselves off and then keep on walking. We do this knowing we are vulnerable and dependent. We reach upward and strive. We do so with humility and hope. We long. We clutch. That is the power of prayer. And it’s so very beautiful.