Music Review: Justin Bieber’s ‘I Pray’

There are many ways in which to review a song.  Most people will look at the beat and tempo and cadence and other musical features.  Others may want to focus on the words, perhaps a recurring chorus.  Ultimately the issue of a song comes down to what the listener thinks; some songs that are absolutely horrible in terms of music and lyrics become quite popular.  Other songs that are pure genius are tossed aside.

Justin Bieber is currently a popular singer among tweens and teens; nearly every song he performs becomes a number 1 hit.  It would stand to reason that because he is the one singing it, that his song ‘I Pray’ is also quite popular among his fans.

‘I Pray’ has a nice beat to it, the cadence is put together well; and in terms of the words and the chorus, it is not that difficult to learn.  I assume that many churches of a variety of denominations are using the song in Sunday School and even in Sunday morning worship.

Being a religious song, it is important that it be examined from a theological perspective as well as a musical one. On the surface, assuming that he had a role in writing the song and this is actually what he prays for, than it is very mature for someone his age.  Bieber, himself a Christian, is a teenager, and many adults do not pray with the depth and
breadth that this song speaks of.  In an interview he said that he wanted to give his fans a different type of song as opposed to the teenage love songs that he normally sings, and in ‘I Pray’ he has done just that.

The song begins by saying that he cannot sleep at night, he closes his eyes and sees some things that pull at his heart, at which point he turns the matters over in prayer.  The song says that he prays for the poor, the dying, those far from home, soldiers, and for the ‘lives not started’; which I take to mean the unborn.  On a brighter note, the song also says that he prays for a brighter future.

As for what he prays for, there is nothing wrong with it.  The poor, the sick and dying,
those far from home, the military, the unborn, and the future are all good things that the Church should pray for.

The criticism of the song is that it never indicates to who the prayer is directed.  There is
no mention of God the Father or Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  Presumably this was done for the sake of reaching a wider audience.  Declaring God to be Father; or to speak of Jesus as God, or even to hint at a Trinity would have wiped out a significant potential audience for the song and would have definitely hurt its rotation on the radio.

But it is not just that the song does not mention Father, Son and Holy Ghost; the song does not mention anyone at all in terms of who the prayer is directed to.  It could
presumably be sung not only in any Christian Church, but also any Jewish Synagogue or Muslim Mosque or Hindu Temple.  Who in any of these religions would not pray for the things that Beiber prays for?  Of course, the song is so vague in terms of who the prayer is directed to that it could also be sung to a stuffed teddy bear.

I give credit to Bieber for writing such a heavy song, and credit him if this is what he actually prays for.  And if through his fame among tweens and teens, he can get them to pray, then Praise God!  But he does lose points for writing a song about prayer that could just as easily be sung in any Christian Church as it could to a can of soda.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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