Watch any documentary about the punk music explosion in the late seventies and sooner or later I guarantee someone will say, ‘Well, when I saw the Sex Pistols I thought, if they can do it I can have a go.’
One of the key aspects of the mad, raucous jamboree that was punk was this – anyone could join in. And plenty of people did. It was music of the people by the people for the people. Not everyone loved it of course and it soon imploded, but that wasn’t the point. For the first time in music history it wasn’t just the talented few – it was about anyone.
I’ve often thought of prayer as the same kind of thing. A sort of spiritual anarchy. Anyone can have a go, you don’t have to be good at it, and you can be raw, gritty, blunt and honest.
There are moments in the gospel blogs – John 11 vv 41 and Matthew 11 vv 25 – when Jesus explodes with his own wall-of-sound prayers. In public. It’s not exactly ‘Anarchy in Israel’ – but it may have sounded like it. You see – most other people didn’t pray like Jesus prayed. He said it like it was, he didn’t put a religious spin on it, or use a holy kind of voice and archaic language. He spoke the language of the street, and he chatted to God as if he was right there next to him.
In other places he tells God about his hopes, fears, faith and dreams. ‘My God – why have you let me down!’ he screams from the darkness of the cross. He doesn’t hold back. Lets it all out. Spiritual punk rock. And he wasn’t the first. Read the book of psalms and you’ll find a back catalogue of angry, gentle, repentant, desperate, hopeful songs. You can let it all out with God. One of the things I love about Bruce Almighty is that his relationship with God begins when he lets out all his venom and frustration about the mess of his life.
It’s likely that everyone prays really. Secretly. Deep guttural, heartfelt prayers, whatever their faith, and if I’m honest my prayers in private are far more ragged and untidy than my prayers in public. In public I do my best to make my prayers sound like The Hallelujah Chorus, in private I sound like Sid Vicious.