Few people today remember the band Breathe. Along with other acts like Johnny Hates Jazz (ironically), they helped establish the smooth jazz genre through their own brand of soft rock. Also, somewhat oddly, although they were an English pop rock band, they were far more successful in the United States than they were in their home country. In Great Britain they had one top 40 hit, a #4 success with their second single “Hands To Heaven.” In the United States they had three top 10 hits and two additional top 40 hits from their second album, which did not even chart in the UK. And yet despite this success they are not a band whose music has endured, unless you are as big a fan of soft rock/adult contemporary love ballads as I am. Nevertheless, although they remain very obscure nowadays apart from those who listen to this music a great deal, there are still some important lessons that we can draw from their work.
Anyway, the song “Hands To Heaven” is a song whose sentiments can be well understood, as it is a prayer from the lead singer that he and his loved one will be able to reunite after what promises to be a lengthy tour on his part, in which he believes he will be deeply lonely and sad. As someone who has heard a fair number of these songs about the isolation and loneliness of life on the road, from Bryan Adams’ “Room Service” to Michelle Branch’s “Hotel Paper ” to “Wheel In The Sky” and “Faithfully” from Journey, just to name a few such songs, and as someone who has read of these sentiments in the work of successful musicians , these are sentiments I can well understand. As a performer and artist, there is a profound tension between the shyness and timidity and anxiety that fill much of the lives of those who create art and the boldness and shamelessness of being a public figure and a performer on stage . In addition, there is a tremendous tension between the fear and the longing for intimacy, something which has long shown itself visible to those around me and the subject of a great deal of painful personal reflection.
What makes “Hands To Heaven” unusual in this context, though, is that the band Breathe sets their own tension between the responsibilities of their lives as touring pop musicians and their longing for love and stability in their personal lives in the context of prayer. In fact, with a sympathetic reading of the lyrics, the band is portraying the narrator (presumably the singer, but not necessarily so) as praying both for himself and for his partner. There are many songs where people sing about the crushing loneliness and isolation of life on the road. There are at least a few books where musicians write about such matters, but there are few examples, at least from what I have seen, of a case where someone is praying not only for their own well-being but also for the well-being of those from whom they will be separated because of their work. It is easy to make fun of musicians for being fond of drugs and alcohol and groupies, but we need to remember that professional musicians are people as well, people with the same needs and longings for intimacy that everyone else has.
Thanks in large part to a series of messages  that a friend of mine suggested I listen to, as well as a book that I finished reading last night on intercessory prayer , I spent a great deal of time last night and today thinking about the extent to which I pray for others in my life. I do not mean here praying for the general health and well-being of others and those in authority, or for my country at large, nor do I mean praying in response to specific prayer requests or praying for our own interests with people we are estranged from, although all of these are the sorts of prayers that I make frequently and that other people probably make a fair amount of as well. What I mean is the following: how often do I pray for the well-being of those with whom I do not get along, without there being any hope or expectation of a payoff for me whatsoever? This is the sort of prayer I find it necessary to practice, given that estrangement appears to be a fairly frequent aspect of my life, and given that there appears at least at this point little reason to expect that any of my own longings or hopes or expectations with other people is likely to be answered in the near future, at least, if ever. If I am to pray for the happiness and well-being in all aspects of life for others, including others with whom my communication is irregular, awkward, or entirely absent, it cannot be for my own interests because it has often been my own interest that has led to the awkwardness and estrangement in the first place.
At least in my experience, it is hard to stay angry at someone if pray for them, genuinely pray for them and seek to understand where they are coming from. Once we see how differently we interpret ourselves from how others interpret us, and once we see the wide gulf between our own understanding of others and what they truly think and feel inside, it is no wonder that we should come to different conclusions but rather a wonder that people are able to be transparent and communicate and get along with each other at all. I don’t know if my own struggles with such matters as making what I think and feel plain enough to others without causing offense or difficulty for myself and others are too serious to improve those difficulties with others I wrestle with now, at least in the near future. But I hope at least to raise my own hands to heaven for their own well being, for if I cannot communicate my own respect and good feelings well to others, at least I may communicate to God, who for better or worse understands what I am about, and all of the mixed and complicated motives within my own dark heart.
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