Five Songs For Lent

Author: Ryan Service


Five Songs For Lent

Ryan Service suggests five great songs which help us reflect on God's grace and mercy in Lent.

Scripture is full of references to music. The Psalms, while being put to music, also speak of making music: “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!" (105:2). Paul writes that, when Christians gathered to break bread, singing was integral to their worship: “Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16).  Hymns then, as now, proclaimed truths of who God is and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Through the power of the Incarnation, we hear the echo of the Divine Word in other words. Music is an example of this. Sometimes, through what some call ‘secular’ music, we hear echoes of the sacred. The Holy Spirit is not immune to our Spotify (or Apple Music) playlists! These five songs sing sacred themes that might help us on our journey through Lent.

1. Kesha, "Praying"

I found this song by accident. Reviewers raved about Kesha’s performance of this song at the recent Grammy Awards. Praying is a striking pop song that speaks explicitly of recent pain. She sings of finding a “strength I’ve never known” when “being alive hurts too much”. Through such raw lyrics, there is a deep sense of faith. She sings of those who have hurt her: “I hope you’re praying, I hope your soul is changing”. The video features the cross throughout. Who do we need to pray for?

2. Eryn Allen Kane, "Have Mercy"

Perhaps, like me, you have never heard of Eryn. During Lent, aware of our shortcomings, we seek the Lord’s mercy. This song moves powerfully from counting blessings to “praying for sense of direction, praying for love and protection” and the plea “have mercy, have mercy”. She does not mention the Lord, but these words, these prayers, are surely the bread and butter of Christianity.

3. Drake, "God’s Plan"

 *contains mild swearing

Currently number 1 in the UK charts, this song seems to speak of Drake’s personal life and how some people perceive him. In the chorus, he focuses on “God’s plan, God’s plan. I can’t do this on my own”, especially when others are wishing bad of him. It is a song about putting criticisms in perspective and seeing God’s providence in our daily lives. How has God been providential to us?

4. Bloc Party, "The Love Within"

This track, from their album Hymns, contains lyrics which seem to come straight out of Luke’s account of the Annunciation: “Lord, give me grace…As I conquer all anxiety / The angel told me not to fear…for I have learnt the way to pray”. Although talking about wanting to “get high”, the refrain of “let the love consume us” could easily refer to intoxication of the Holy Spirit. Have we invited the Holy Spirit into our lives afresh today?

5. Florence + The Machine, "You’ve Got the Love"

Originally sung by Candi Staton, this version is a powerful hymn in disguise. Unlike the previous songs, this song mentions the Lord explicitly: “Sometimes I feel like saying Lord I just don’t care / But you’ve got the love I need to see me through”. The lyrics speak truthfully of the Lord’s love carrying us, even when we lose the things, the people, we love: “When food is gone, you are my daily meal / When friends are gone, I know my saviour’s love is real…Time after time I think Oh Lord, what’s the use…but you’ve got the love I need to see me through”. Lent is a graced time for returning to the basics, beginning with accepting our need of God’s unending love.

  • Ryan Service is a seminarian training for ministry with the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

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