Your cries have awoken the blogger

In the past few months, I’ve noticed that every time the topic turns to Mike and Kelly Bowling’s big new song, “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master,” people get prickly. When I was in Nashville in April, I was with a group of sg types and they went at it for a good while about the song.

Was “awoken” grammatical (yes, it is, but even if it weren’t, since when has grammatical excellence but an abiding concern in gospel music)? Was the song biblically based? Is it blasphemy to suggest Jesus needs to be “awoken” by man since scripture says God slumbers not nor sleeps? And so on. Similar stuff is getting kicked around here.

I guess if you look to religious pop culture for strict theological expressions of biblical literalism, these last few questions might interest you. But I thought most people, even in gospel music, understood that songs concern themselves primarily with states of mind, feeling, and the expression of feeling. Creative license and all that …

Religious songs are no different, except that they concern themselves with religious or spiritual states of mind, feeling, and expression of feelings. I suppose there are people who are moved by religious music because it carefully restates technical theological doctrines in abab rhyme schemes (Gosh, Mildred, isn’t it brilliant the way they found a matching rhyme for “premillennial eschatology”?). But most of us listen for and respond to more amorphous aspects of songs. Sure, it’s not nothing that songs often can reinforce our sense of belonging to a wider community of like-minded individuals (be they Deadheads or Hardpan Baptists). But more commonly we value songs for their ability to evoke a unique constellation of feeling within us and, in the best cases, for awakening parts of us that remain dormant much of the rest of the time.

On this score, I think “Your Cries” works. In part this is my way of saying subjectively, I enjoy the song. I like the swells and rolls of the rhythm’s cadence (not, I suppose, unlike the tooing and froing of a boat in a storm) and the way the chorus conveys the sense of building anxiety and concern that is finally resolved, harmonically and conceptually, in the awakening of “the master.”

Because you prayed all night
‘Cause you held on with all your might
Child, your cries have awoken the master

Lyrically, this feels deeply human to me. Sure, the jot-and-tittlers may tell us that evangelical Protestantism’s omniscient, sovereign God does not need to be “awoken” by the lamentations of the suffering faithful. But don’t a lot of people experience life this way all the same? Who among us has not called out to the heavens in times of strife, beseechingly needful of some sign that our pain or fear or anxieties or despairs aren’t going unnoticed, and so might yet be ameliorated in ways that seem beyond our fallible reach? And whether, according to the dictates of orthodoxy, it should be this way or not, doesn’t belief for most people rise and fall on a felt sense that our prayers don’t go unheard?

In the Varieties of Religious Experience, William James has this to say about praying:

Prayer in this wide sense is the very soul and essence of religion. … The religious phenomenon … has shown itself to consist everywhere, and at all its stages, in the consciousness which individuals have of an intercourse between themselves and higher powers with which they feel themselves to be related.

….

The conviction that something is genuinely transacted in [prayer] is the very core of living religion. As to what is transacted, great differences of opinion have prevailed. The unseen powers have been supposed, and are yet supposed, to do things which no enlightened man can nowadays believe in. It may well prove that the sphere of influence in prayer is subjective exclusively, and that what is immediately changed is only the mind of the praying person. But however our opinion of prayer’s effects may come to be limited by criticism, religion … must stand or fall by the persuasion that effects of some sort genuinely do occur. Through prayer, religion insists, things which cannot be realized in any other manner come about: energy which but for prayer would be bound is by prayer set free and operates in some part, be it objective or subjective, of the world of facts.

My emphasis. If one were to metaphorize the point James is driving at here, one could do worse than to draw on the story of Christ asleep amidst the maelstrom. If you read the story as mainly about the character of Christ or the trinity, of course you’ll probably end up in the high weeds explaining why the son of man wasn’t really napping on the job.

But read this as a parable about religious living - about a bunch of ordinary guys who were scared of dying and wanted Christ to give them some sign he was aware of their predicament and cared - read this way, the story seems to about the human desire for felt authentications of belief, and about the need for some verification now and then that the life of prayer “operates,” as James says, within “the world of facts,” that in praying “effects of some sort genuinely do occur” … that our cries do indeed awaken the master.

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Comments

  1. RK wrote:

    Just as a noteworthy aside to this discussion, Mike and Kelly Bowling’s album “Faith to Believe”, which includes this song, is scheduled to be released to the iTunes Store tomorrow August 12th for downloads. They are taking pre-orders now, but I’ve never really understood the concept of pre-ordering digital material. Are they going to run out of disk space? Will the server crash? Only allowing a limited number of $0.99 downloads? Who knows…

  2. Glenn wrote:

    Amen. This is really a great post. I don’t go to the forums, but I noticed once on the SoGospelNews website that they were having a discussion about whether the song “When I Cry” was biblically based. Instead of seeing it as a song about a loving, caring, compassionate God, they were concerned among other things because there is supposed to be no crying in Heaven. There is a lot of bible quoting, and of course a few people who observe how ridiculous it is, and some who actually articulately explain it. Eventually, as usual, they get way off the point, but there are 40 posts concerning this.

    I love your comment “But more commonly we value songs for their ability to evoke a unique constellation of feeling within us and, in the best cases, for awakening parts of us that remain dormant much of the rest of the time.” Brilliant.

  3. Tad Kirkland wrote:

    I believe Jesus was fully human and fully divine: 100% man and 100% God. Men sleep and are sometimes awoken…awakened…woke up.

    What I’m loving about the Mike & Kelly sound is the texture of the voice of the 3rd part. It’s perfectly suited for M&K adding just the right amount of a sort of pinched treble(not in a Brian Free way) that makes Kelly sound like she’s soaring. I want more, but also know the nature of the husband/wife/3rd part group (of which there’ve been many)…you can’t feature the 3rd part too much because he’s gonna join a quartet soon anyway.

  4. Part-timer wrote:

    Good post, Avery. But I still say “awakened” would have been a perfectly correct and viable (and, IMHO, much better) word choice. “Awoken,” while technically correct, is archaic, and therefore, a song stopper for me.

  5. Joe wrote:

    I must admit that the very first time I heard this song, I saw the exact conundrum that Doug and others have raised. Listening to XM34 all week long as I drive, I imagine I hear this song, oh, say…4 times a week.

    Allowing that this is much “poetic license”, or whatever it is that freely permits songwriters to bend so many lines, I guess I don’t have huge problems with it, save one.

    In actuality, the only time that this can literally come true, was when it did…when Christ was here, as God manifest in the flesh (sorry Joel Hemphill- you can sit this one out…).

    It really doesn’t apply now. It suggests that God is oblivious, uncaring, or unconcerned about our burdens, problems, and cares- until we manage to awaken His interest.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Matt. 6:8 states plainly that our Heavenly Father knows what things we have need of, BEFORE we pray.

    Now THAT is a truly comforting thought.

  6. partofthetime wrote:

    I dont care if Mike Bowling sang Mary had a little lamb, I would still listen to it because of his great voice and spiritual singing. It dont matter if its politically correct or not, if its just a lousy quartet tune, there is nothing spiritual about it!

  7. Steven wrote:

    This is a great song. Actually, the entire project is top notch! I am really glad that they are getting the radio play and recognition that they deserve.

    Of course, Christ knows what we need, when we need it. But how many times in scripture did Jesus respond to those who just asked, pressed through the crowd, wept for mercy, ect. I think the christian community has become like little birds…always with their mouth open. Some never fail to ask God for what they need. IN this song, those disciple’s were alarmed and physically woke up Jesus. There are many times in the bible where God seems “asleep”. King david has said “how long will you wait”, noah felt alone on the ark i’m sure, Jesus said “father why hast thou forsaken me”. Not that God has ever left us, but that feeling of fear sometimes happens. Its a great song.
    Great post avery..and great comments too

    Oh by the way…what one poster stated..Jeff Snyder does add a great 3rd part!

  8. studio chick wrote:

    Great song and great record. Let them sing great music that the people love and understand. We need more records like this. Best record of the year in my opinion.

  9. JB wrote:

    While we are on the subject I thinks it’s a shame that Mike and Kelly have had 2 songs reach #1 within a year, and they are not on mainstage at NQC. Whats up with that?

  10. cdguy wrote:

    JB — A group is only invited to Main Stage after they’ve been in existance at least 2 years. M&KB (under that name) has not been in existance that length of time yet. Maybe next year?

  11. Mr E wrote:

    Mike and Kelly should be all over NQC. The unfortunate thing about this event is that they are always behind the success/growth curve. That is sad for us, the fans. We want to hear these people while the songs are new and hot!

    Maybe we should call NQC @ 502-926-0988 and request Mike and Kelly.

    I am sure they listen to some extent.

  12. cynical one wrote:

    Maybe the reason NQC has that crazy rule about 2 years of existance is to keep from having a brand new crop of great groups who appear on the main stage only once, then disappear, never to be seen or heard of again.

    For example, in the past couple of years, we’ve seen First Love come and go. We’ve seen TK&McRae come and go. We’ve seen The Mike Bowling Group come and go. We’ve seen The McRaes come and go and come back. We’ve seen Hope’s call come and go.

    And that’s just the ones that come to my mind — groups that received a lot of national airplay. I’m sure there are others, as well as some of the more extablished groups who have left the road in the last year or so.

    Let’s face it, it’s hard to keep a group on the road, what with families, personalities, finances, et al.

    And NQC probably would like some consistancy on the main stage lineup, year-to-year-to-year.

  13. nonSGfan wrote:

    The waves, the storm, the thunder…..NOTHING woke him up. ONLY the cries of his people. The thought and meaning are wonderful. The singing is great…the writing is captivating.

    way to go….

  14. AL wrote:

    The concept to the song is your cries have caught the attention of the master. And when you cry out to him he hears you. Its doesn’t say he was in a deep slumber. Awake as a intransitive verb is defined to become conscious or aware of something. As a transitive verb: to make active. Thank you nonSGfan for pointing out the fact Jesus was asleep in the boat and the cries of his children woke him up. Its a good song. Leave it at that.

  15. LW wrote:

    While everyone is singing the praises of Mark and Kelly, I would like to say congrats to the song writers. They are both very gifted young women who sing, play and write wonderful songs themselves.

  16. Stacey wrote:

    Could someone PLEASE e-mail me and tell me the actual title of this song, and who sings it? Thanks so much. I’ve been looking for it for weeks. .. .. Stacey

  17. GREG wrote:

    CHILD YOW CRIIEIEIEIIIS HAVE AWOAOOOKEUAUHN YOURERE MASTAWAWAWAWAWAAAW

  18. SASSY wrote:

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SONG OUR CHURCH IS BEGINNING TO SING THIS AT CHOIR PRACTICE, IT WILL ABSOLUTELY BUST LOOSE!!!

  19. sherri wrote:

    I WANT LYRICS TO THIS SONG WANT TO SING AT OUR JAIL MINISTRY I SANG CHORUS LAST VISIT AND THE WOMEN RESPONDED WELL I KNOW IT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT SINGING THE WHOLE SONG

  20. Jennifer wrote:

    I found your blog looking for they lyrics to this song. I heard it in church a couple of Sundays ago and it so struck a chord with me. I have a friend going through a really hard time and I know the words will lift her up. It is interesting some of the controversy that developed over the words themselves. I’ve always believed that if we cry out to God he will help us and I guess that is the way I see it.

  21. Darice wrote:

    I found this blog wanting to hear the song. I am going through a person storm right now and I was crying so hard I could barly breath. I turned my tv to a christian channel and this song was playing. I knew God was right there. So I’d like to thank them for writing a love letter from God to me.

  22. Ginger wrote:

    I learned a long time ago, that when people want to hem & haw and otherwise find something to pick @, they will eventually land on something to do so. Family of God, we just need to ignore people who do so. Our Savior is wayyy bigger than all that. ***HE** knows our hearts and our intent. **He** knows that the writers of Awoken were not intending to spawn such a round of debates.
    The first time I heard this song was at church. The singers started the song, and a lady that was going through YET another round of chemo and radiation, (in an attempt to kill her latest appearance of tumors),was led up to the altar for prayer wearing a turban. She was so weak and sick. When we saw her being led up there, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The singers sang the chorus of this song over and over. It was the most moving service I had been a part of in ages. This song seemed to manifest exactly what she was feeling. It manifests something we ALL feel from time to time. Whether or not it points to actual behavior of our lord NOW, is beside the point. It MINISTERED to EVERYONE in the service. I’ve FELT like that from time to time. Jesus doesn’t actually sleep now, however, he doesn’t act on OUR timetable. He moves within his own time and grace. It just doesnt’t always meet our expectations. Too often, we expect him to be more like McDonalds than the King of Kings. This song simply says what we all feel from time to time…and points to a time when his own disciples felt that way, too.

  23. Laura wrote:

    Right on Ginger.

  24. Elizabeth C. wrote:

    I have carried a burden so heavy that I thought it would crush my heart and soul, and just when I think that I have reached the point that it would overtake me God steps in. Was God ever literally asleep through my trial? No, however he was testing my faith, and letting me know once again that he is in control of every aspect of my life. If he answered me the first time that I called him in every trial, I would not be able to understand how desperately I need him. Sometimes God requires an honest plea! Overall I want to say that I’ve been there, it made me stronger, and this song will touch the many Christians who have been there too! Thank you song writers, and the Bowling Family for sharing this message of victory.

  25. jessica duncan wrote:

    hey i have child your cries have awoken the master stuck in my head from Harriet memorial freewill Baptist and we sing this song every sunday and wednesday

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