Father, hear our prayer

Today’s ‘hymn’ from Sing Praise is a short devotional song by Andy Piercy, “Father, hear our prayer”.  You can hear it sung here.  As John has already noted in a comment on an earlier post, this is one of the songs in the book headed “Penitence” but which isn’t particularly penitential in its words.  Rather, it’s a song of dedication to God, asking that our lives may be consecrated to him and that we may be filled with his power.  The second part is the traditional ‘Kyrie’ prayer – Lord have mercy on us. I would have expected this to come first, as the typical pattern in prayer is to ask for God’s mercy on our weaknesses and failings before asking for him to change us and empower us.

1 thought on “Father, hear our prayer”

  1. I think perhaps I ought to write a bit on “Kyrie eleison” as a prelude to comments on this song, for I have tried, unsuccessfully, to make a bit of a fuss about it in the Church of England. Kyrie (the vocative of Kyrios) is of course “Lord” in Greek (and in NT Greek was also used as form of address to others, in the same way as a schoolboy would say “Sir” when addressing a (male) teacher).

    Liturgists seem agreed that the earliest form of “Kyrie Eleison” was just that one petition, which was used as a kind of periodic response to intercessions, in much the same way as the modern “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer” is often used nowadays – in fact, it basically means “Lord, have mercy and may this mercy issue in you answering our prayer”. They seem agreed that the three-fold form “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison” came later, and that the two forms did exist in parallel. But they don’t seem to get the obvious point that the threefold form is Trinitarian: the “Christe” in the middle is to Christ, the initial “Kyrie” is to “God” who is also the Father, and the final “Kyrie” is to the Lord who is the Holy Spirit.

    So, liturgically speaking, there are tantalisingly few places where this is observed. In the “Times and Seasons” book (GS 1549, p11 for example, there are two different “Kyrie confessions”:

    God through Jesus Christ will judge the secret thoughts of all. Lord have mercy
    Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven. Christ have mercy.
    Let anyone who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Lord have mercy.

    and

    Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of your kingdom. Lord have mercy.
    You come in word and sacrament to strengthen us in holiness. Christ have mercy.
    You will come in glory with salvation for your people. Lord have mercy.

    It’s kind of obvious to me that the writer of the first of these knew what s/he was about, whereas the writer of the second didn’t!

    Well, about this hymn / song, Andy Pierce doesn’t. But enough about “Kyrie Eleison”!

    * * *

    I don’t mean that Andy’s song is spiritually wrong, or unhelpful to some, or misguided – just that for me it doesn’t tick this particular box of clarity in the way it expresses itself. I listened to the recording Stephen pointed us to, and it does clarify several things about this song. It’s intended to be part of a suite of songs, it’s for soloists, it is about mood rather than doctrine, and it is probably more about atmosphere than about the actual words used or beliefs being expressed.

    But it’s not really intended for congregational singing, and the repeated off-beat words are a clear indication of this: congregations universally can’t get their heads around this kind of feature. There’s no attempt at rhyme, and rhyme is probably seen as a positive obstacle to the integrity of the song, since it implies a degree of craftsmanship which is at odds with the intended atmosphere of coming into the presence of God so downing all attempts at human polish. There is a fairly clear rhythm, and to preserve this is sacrificed the distinction between ancient and modern forms of speech: so the song has “you” not “thee” at the end of line 3 (where “thee” would rhyme with “me”), but it has “unto” instead of “to” immediately before this final word. And finally, of course, it is addressed to the Father in the text – so what are the three persons of the Trinity doing in the liturgical coda?

    I think I might have been able to see the point a little better if there had been three verses, addressed to the Father, the Son and the Spirit respectively – but then, aren’t the “fire” and “power” more usually associated with the Spirit than with the Father? Whereas the “name” (the one word which really stands out as being different in sound from all the rest), is almost always either an OT monotheistic name of God (shorthand for his personality and character – I AM who I AM) or else the name of Jesus who is Saviour in the line of Joshua.

    In short, this song doesn’t scratch where I itch,

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