Prayer for me – a song for imperfect people

It was a cold, winter, Highveld night. I was driving home from a church meeting in KwaThema. Just on the outskirts of the township stood a man, silhouetted by a streetlight and the hazy winter smoke. His arm stretched out, hitching a ride into town.

It was 1994, the country was a mix of fear and hope. I had just been at a meeting where we were talking about Jesus; the Jesus, famed in His love for the poor. This, and at least an ounce of compassion in me, wanted to give him a ride.

But my mind made a quick calculation. What happens if it’s a plot to hijack my car? I drove on.

A few days later, a man came to my door. He needed food and shelter. I had an empty room in the house. But what if he robbed me in the night. What if he refused to leave? I made him a peanut butter sandwich and sent him on his way.

The conflict between being sensible and selfish was uncomfortable. I wrote a song about the struggle between doing what was good and doing what was safe. My conclusion was that the poor needed real, practical help and if nothing else, I needed prayer.

Nearly 10 years later, I decided to record some of my music. A gifted acquaintance, Andrew, had agreed to produce the recordings for me. When I played him the song, he was polite but clear that it wasn’t good enough to record. He said it had potential, but it needed work.

So, after breakfast the next day, with about an hour before I needed to leave for the studio, I sat down to re-work the song. Everything changed – chords, melody, content. The only remnant left was the phrase ‘and it’s a prayer for me’.

I jumped in my car to make the 30-minute trip to the studio, hoping to heaven that I would remember the tune.

As I walked in, I told Andrew I needed to make a quick recording of this new song so that I didn’t forget it. He pushed record, and I played. When it was finished, Andrew said that we were going to leave the song just as it was. He didn’t want to mess with it or try to make it better. So, we added a bit of guitar. And my dear friend Jennifer Hume, came in to play a wonderful bassoon part.

So as you listen, you can hear my uncertainty – whether I should play the D# or not; a few less than perfect vocal notes; an imperfect song structure, I still wish I could change!

But it turns out, it is a song for imperfect people, and so that’s probably the way it should be.