To tell you the truth, it’s the lyrics by Stéphane Bordèse that hit me before the music, which is unusual, at least for me. Not that Gabriel Fauré’s “En Prière” (1890) isn’t a beautifully poetic piece of music. I’ve heard it performed recently with harp and voice but Kathleen Battle’s performance below is just as exquisite with piano.
“En Prière” (In Prayer)
As the voice of a child can reach You,
O my Father,
Hear my prayer, on bended knee before You!
As You have chosen me to teach Your
laws on earth,
I will know how to serve You, noble
King of kings, O Light!
On my lips, Lord, place the salutary
In order that he who doubts should with
Humility revere You!
Do not abandon me, give me the
To ease suffering, to relieve sorrow,
Reveal Yourself to me, my Father, in whom I
trust and hope:
For You I wish to suffer and to die on
The cross, at Calvary!
It is sung in the original French but luckily I was able to view the translation before the first notes soared out of the soprano’s mouth and follow along in English which, given my lame French, was the first blessing I received from the performance. The next was this: the words, “You have chosen me to teach Your laws on earth,” which seemed only relevant to Jesus, as indeed the whole piece is intended to be.
But it struck me that with every word and act in my daily life, however menial or vibrant, I hope I am teaching myself and those around me to believe, trust, serve, revere, and hope in the Lord. Now more than ever, aren’t the eyes of the world upon us as we encounter the many faces of persecution? Aren’t we ambassadors of Christ to them? Of course on the heels of that realization came gratitude to God that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”¹ through Christ Jesus. I confess I “fall short of the glory of God”² as much if not more than I succeed in glorifying Him in my teaching through my everyday speech or activities. As the publican cried, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
Which led me to the meat of “En Prière”: a crying out to God to provide all that we lack in our service to Him, not least of all to give us anew a revelation of Himself so that we may die to self and sin and be “alive to God in Christ Jesus.”³ The last line reminded me of the following words of the Apostle Paul:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:20-21 ESV)
As the final notes of “En Prière” fade away, the image that resonates is the cross of Calvary, where all our prayers must begin. The work would seem unfinished unless it had led us to the cross, always “in prayer” as was Christ Himself.
¹1 John 1:9
²Romans 3: 23