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Praying

Apr 28, 2022Art, Blog

It was late summer of 2017, the sun was just starting to sink, although still well above the horizon. Golden hour. A warm breeze filtered through the car as I drove home from a long day of work. The radio host of the local top 40 radio station announced a new hit single from Kesha. My temptation was to change the station, assuming a newer variation of Your Love Is My Drug was about to play through my speakers. But I didn’t, and instead a slow, somber, piano began to play.

The first lyrics of the song told a story that felt oddly familiar to me. 

Well, you almost had me fooled

Told me that I was nothing without you

Oh, but after everything you’ve done

I can thank you for how strong I have become

‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell

I had to learn how to fight for myself

And we both know all the truth I could tell

I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell.”

As I listened to the lyrics for the first time, I experienced the same thing I am experiencing now as I write them…goosebumps. The lyrics carried weight. If you’ve ever fallen down the slippery slope of unforgiveness then you probably feel it too.

The song begins timidly. Angry but unsure, like the wound was still fresh. But as the lyrics progress so does the tone, finally coming to full blast by the time the second chorus comes around. She belts…

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’

I hope your soul is changin’, changin’

I hope you find your peace

Falling on your knees, prayin’

In a personal essay written on the website Lenny Letter, Kesha described what the song meant to her. “This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It’s a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It’s also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal.”

Kesha’s religious beliefs are unknown to me, but the principle of this song is rooted in Jesus’ words. 

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

Time and time again Scripture tells us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you. 

Why?

To pray for your enemies is to submit them to someone bigger than yourself, one that can actually provide justice. It relinquishes the need to punish or retaliate. Not only is this healing for yourself, but it is countercultural to society’s idea of justice. 

When I listened to this song for the first time, I felt like for 3 minutes I got to go on the journey of forgiveness with Kesha. Because just like praying for your enemies, forgiveness is entrusting them to Jesus, the just and the justifier (Romans 3:26). 

God is just. There are two ways for justification to be achieved according to God’s word: 1. To repent and surrender one’s life to Jesus, allowing Him to bear the weight of the punishment you deserve for your sin or 2. For you to bear the weight of your own sin and suffer from eternal separation from God. 

To pray for your enemies, those who have hurt you, is to submit them to the ultimate justifier, the only one who can bear the weight of the pain they’ve caused. In return, you no longer bear the burden of needing to see them pay for their actions AND you receive peace of mind knowing that justice will be paid, by Jesus or by themselves.

In that same article Kesha says that “I’ve overcome obstacles, and I have found strength in myself even when it felt out of reach. I’ve found what I had thought was an unobtainable place of peace.” 

Forgiveness is liberating. The enemy would love to keep us in a place of unforgiveness, channeling our effort to punishing someone else and in return only punishing ourselves. 

As the song concludes, it’s as if she’s finally arrived at forgiveness. Empowered, stronger, hopeful. 

“You can’t give what you don’t have.” Jesus’ death and resurrection provided you and I with an ever-flowing well of forgiveness to draw from. When we receive that forgiveness we’re able to extend it to others without running dry. 

Since I first heard this song several years ago, it’s aided me on my own journey of forgiveness. Serving as a guide to channel my own emotions of bitterness and desire for retribution into surrender, to the One who can provide the justice I longed for. My hope is that it can do the same for you.