The Gospel Ambassadors hail from Wilmington, Delaware and their Oh, I Can’t Wait to See Him was released on the Executive Records label. This song—“Don’t Stop Praying”—evokes both the unceasing uncertainties of life as it is lived, but also the certainty that might be attained with ceaseless activity. There is something strangely familiar in the call to the listener to keep the faith and to keep up the activity of prayer in the face of strong winds. There is safety in the groove of prayer, in the repetition of the same. Over and over again, there is the promise of change.
[Editor’s Note: This essay resides within John Modern’s “Vinyl Prayers,” a portal into Reverberations’ unfolding compendium of resources related to the study of prayer.]
Prayer may be an act of gratitude after the fact. It may be a weapon, a request to heal the body or boost the brain, an epistemic cry, a meditation, a mediation, a quip, a plea, a means of passive resistance, a wonderful gift from God. Or any manner of combination.
Whatever prayer is or has been, it often seems to be bound up in the play of transgression and transcendence. Within the move across, there are the moves against and the moves beyond. Against and beyond simultaneously, continuously, even as a prayer is conceived and uttered, even after it is ignored or answered.
A will to negation is, of course, necessary for transcendence. And transcendence must be in the offing for this will to become manifest. In the living act of prayer, there is no beginning and there is no end. Prayer is precisely that activity which, in theory, denies the localization and stillness demanded by means of human measurement. Yet, in practice, this denial is offered under circumstances that have been utterly humanized and subject to social forms, grammars, and algorithms of immanent origin. The praying hands of humans, in other words, pray to no man, which is strange indeed in a world in which modeling the human is the key for knowing the human and much else besides.