We are living through a fierce moment in history.  On the one hand, we have a new report from scientists from the United Nations on the ever advancing realities of Climate Change, and the news about the present and near and distant future of Mother Earth’s condition is not good.

Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York performs “Prayer for Ukraine” on Saturday Night Live

At the same time we have the attack on the fledging democracy of Ukraine carried out by an isolated dictator stewing in resentment and self-pity and dreams of czarist aspirations amid challenges posed by having a democracy so close to his border.

And, closer to home, we have attacks on our weary and creaky democracy of 245 years waged in a bloody insurrection on the nation’s capital 14 months ago.  It is being carried on still by subservient politicians in the form of radical restructuring of voting laws in numerous states. 

Luciano Pavarotti & Eric Clapton – “Holy Mother” Live on Pavarotti and friends 2003

All of it is cheered on by an ex-president who calls Putin’s invasion of Ukraine an act of “genius” and who, like the Russian president whom he so admires, wants to create chaos and turn over democracy in this country also. 

Both of them suffer from the common disease of Patriarchy with its concomitant poisons of self-pity, hatred, unhinged anger that leads to war and violence, and a deeply hidden “fatalistic self-hatred” as well. 

It is a dangerous time and chaotic time.

Jeffrey Li, age 10, of Canada, and Celine Tam, age 7, of Hong Kong, sing “You Raise Me Up” on a Chinese talent show. Video by CGTN.

How do we endure and stay grounded?  One avenue is prayer that comes from a deep place, a place of crying out.  Try the Pavarotti/Clapton song above that touches the hurting and angry soul very deeply.  (Someone mailed this to me and said that Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes recommended it for times like ours.)  It is a call to the Great Mother.  Therefore it is a call about the healthy feminine and healthy masculine, it contains energies of both surely.

Another song that came my way this morning, “You Raise Me Up” (above), is of a different energy, but also strong in its fashion.  With the song came this note, “more art; less war.” 

Jennifer Berezan’s “She Who Hears the Cries of the World,” with voiceover by Olympia Dukakis. Video by Unanimous

Another is this prayer from musician and Buddhist Jennifer Berezan,  “She who hears the cries of the world.”  This too is of a different energy than the previous prayers, but no less effective.

True prayer comes from our depths and for that we often turn to song.

Peace and peace-making to you.

See Matthew Fox, Prayer: A Radical Response to Life, pp. 140-151.

See also Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “Jasmine in song.” Photo by Taylor on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

What expressions of music and art speak to you when times are hard? 

Recommended Reading

Prayer: A Radical Response to Life
How do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? Fox defines prayer as a radical response to life that includes our “Yes” to life (mysticism) and our “No” to forces that combat life (prophecy). How do we define adult prayer? And how—if at all—do prayer and mysticism relate to the struggle for social and ecological justice? One of Matthew Fox’s earliest books, originally published under the title On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear: Spirituality American StylePrayer introduces a mystical/prophetic spirituality and a mature conception of how to pray. Called a “classic” when it first appeared, it lays out the difference between the creation spirituality tradition and the fall/redemption tradition that has so dominated Western theology since Augustine. A practical and theoretical book, it lays the groundwork for Fox’s later works.
“One of the finest books I have read on contemporary spirituality.” – Rabbi Sholom A. Singer

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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12 thoughts on “Music as Prayer in Hard Times”

  1. Avatar

    I can’t remember where I heard this, probably 40 years ago:

    S/he who sings prays twice.

    Blessings on us all especially Mother Earth and her special children in Ukraine.


  2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you ask in our “Queries for Contemplation”: “What expressions of music and art speak to you when times are hard?” What speaks to me right now is some of the protest music of “60s” (but probably more accurately “70s”)–songs like, Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” & “The Times Are a Changing,” “John Fogerty’s “Bad Moon Rising,” and Edwin Starr’s “War” to name just a few. The art that speaks to me the most is the abstract art that came out after WWII by people like Jean Dubuffet, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and others…

  3. Avatar

    Thank you, Mathew Fox, for helping us stay both alive and grounded in these times of ours. Today’s meditation about how the soul and heartbeat of music transforms us and renews us and brings us together as community, is beyond words! You are a steady beacon in these troubled times. You relentlessly inspire our best efforts. Thank you

  4. Avatar

    Thank you Matthew. It happens that I have just added to my very minimalist piano ‘repertoire’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s song LET IT BE which invokes Mother Mary. My other songs of consolation are BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER by Paul Simon, YOU RAISE ME UP by Graham and Lovland, and SOUND OF SILENCE by Paul Simon, which is the most prophetic of the group as it references “the people who bow and pray to the neon gods they made”…. I am a late bloomer wannabe pianist, my fingers occasionally ‘stuttering’ over the keyboard, but the soul value of the lyrics and tunes feels like ‘amazing grace’.
    Canada’s poet/prophet Leonard Cohen’s song THE FUTURE predicted the dystopia which the world is now experiencing, as did William Butler Yeats’ poem THE SECOND COMING.

  5. Avatar

    Van Morrison is an artist whose deep, Celtic soul speaks to me through his poetry and song. The words from his “Into the Mystic”, though written 50 years ago, still ring true for me today. Another one that continually gives me comfort in celebrating the wonders of beauty is “In the Garden” from his album “No Guru, No Method, No Teacher”.
    To me, these two help me remember the union between the father sky above and the mother earth below…and all the mysteries that dwell in between. Thank you for this reminder of using art for inspiring the Good in us all and creating change in the world.

  6. Avatar
    Monica Olinger

    Thank you, Matthew. The times, they are a changing and I sense that the collective suffering and pain may help us evolve to a higher way of being. Music is able to reach us in ways that are healing and releases the grief and pain that we may have tried to hide and did for many years, even generations.
    Peace and grace to all with intentions of collective healing.

  7. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew for these wonderful meditations, which I have been listening to through a friend for some time now. Your theme of music and your lovely selection this morning made me want to also make you aware of another beautiful song that I recently played, called “A Small Vase of Flowers.” It was written and recorded by Linda Allen, and was written from the perspective of a woman under the bombs falling on her city. It is really beautiful and relevant to your recent discussion. Linda sent out the link to the song on her newsletter, at http://www.lindasongs.com/vase. Thank you again. Blessings and every good.

  8. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Thank you so much Mathew for today’s DM. I soaked in the gift of peace through the video clip “She Who Hears The Cries Of The World.” I also emailed this You-tube clip to several of my friends, passing on this gift of peace… for we all need to soak in this peaceful moment offered in the beautiful sounds and images of this prayer song… especially while in the midst of everything that’s going on in the world.

  9. Avatar

    “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast. To soften rocks, or bend the knotted oak.” (William Congreve, “The Mourning Bride”, 1697) says it all. Thank you Matthew and all for the beautiful music selections. The children singing “You Raise Me Up” just about did me in but expressed the hope that we must hold onto.

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