Bradley Currah “Prayers of the Saints” Album Review

Many theological truths are easier passed on through public prayers than sermons.  Prayers, if prayed with thought, humility and Scriptural acumen, have a better chance of making an impact than other pedagogical means.  This is because prayers often emanate out of our soul's anguish that often do not come with a scripted pretense. Thus, its emotional and spiritual impact on our hearers is often greater.  This is why a couple of centuries ago, the great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon did not mind sharing his pulpit.  Even when Spurgeon was in town he would sometimes invite a guest preacher to his church.  However, Spurgeon would always be the one leading the "pastoral prayer" of each of his church services.  This decision did not arise out of any priestly conviction that his prayers were more efficacious than those of others.  Rather, it arose from his love for his people, his high view of prayer, his conviction that public praying should not only intercede with God but also instruct and edify and encourage the saints. Prayers teach us about God and this is what is at the heart of Brad Currah's album. "Prayers of the Saints" is an intriguing project; he has taken the prayers that span right through church history and set them to (mostly) newly crafted music.  

Other than one original ("Post Concussion"), the lyrics of these 13 cuts are prayers garnered from King David in the Old Testament to Jesus in the New Testament to the formulators of the Nicene Creed formatted to the church fathers to the era of the Catholic reformers to the Puritans and into the saints of the 20th Century.  But rest assured this is not some esoteric niche of an album that only appeals to history buffs.  In his inimitable ways, Currah has crafted contemporary tunes to go along with these ancient innovations making them accessible to our modern ears.  If one were to look at these prayers chronologically, the oldest have to be "Sing Your People" and "Above All Names," both of which are prayers lifted from the book of Psalms.  "Sing Your People" which is based on a prayer of adoration from Psalm 148 is accompanied by a folky 70s-esque pop tune that even features some soaring viola to boot.  While "Above All Names" is a Davidic prayer based on Psalm 8 where all creation is called to worship God.  And to bring out such a cosmic call to worship, Currah has imbued this tune with an appropriate atmospheric echo. 

Travelling down the timeline of redemptive history we come to Jesus and his self-taught "The Lord's Prayer." Musically, Currah has not used the standard tune for Jesus' most famous prayer.  Rather, newly scribed by Currah, his version of "The Lord's Prayer" is more in the veins of Michael Card with its use of keyboards and some heavy guitar riffs.  Moving passed the New Testament we come to A.D. 318 where the church for the first time since its inception was officially recognized.  Part of the Nicene Creed therefore is set to music in the somber ballad "The Creed."  Currah has to be given the kudos for tackling Catholic Reformer Ignatius of Loyola's "Prayer of the Disturbed."  Many of us Protestants often have a caricatured view of the Catholics; we have seldom given them the credit that they are due.  But it is thanks to Catholic Reformers like Ignatius and his sefless missionary efforts that many cultures today have turned from carnivorous human-eaters to Jesus fearers.  And part of their success is that these are men of prayer.  "Prayer of the Disturbed" actually captures that utter surrender to God's Spirit that is deserving of our emulation.

One of the greatest values of revisiting these prayers is that behind them are stories of faith and sacrifice.  Take St. Richard of Chichester's 13th Century "O Most Merciful" as an example.  Though some historians have seen St. Richard as audacious in his effects to reform the church, but behind such a front is a man who has worn out his knees in prayer.  And even after all these years St. Richard's prayer still ignites the flames of holiness as we listen to Currah singing to it.   "Post Concussion" is the only newly written prayer that finds Currah at his poetic  best with one of the best lines on the description of sin: "sin is like a concussion/Satisfies me with nothing/Then your Spirit reveals my haze."  In our culture of pithy lines and trite clichés, "Prayers of the Saints" need some time to be acquainted to.  But if one should take the time to listen, mediate, reflect upon the words of these ancient prayers, they will deepen our theological appreciation of God.  And in times when we do struggle like many of God's saints had, these prayers supply us with the vocabulary to utter some of our inner most pain and angst to our heavenly Father.