Home > Theological Reflections, Uncategorized > Petra, The Book of Alternative Services, Scripture and surviving adolescence

Petra, The Book of Alternative Services, Scripture and surviving adolescence


I remember sharing my story with someone  who listened carefully, and then joking asked “With your background, why didn’t you leave and become a Buddhist or something?”

It’s a good question actually. Ultimately, I think God protected my relationship with Him. I had many real and powerful experiences of his presence while growing up, even at a really young age. There were many, many times that I was frustrated that God did not seem to hear my cries for protection and deliverance. But ultimately, He preserved my faith even in the most tumultuous times.

Today, I’ve been reflecting on some of the practices that held me together during some of the roughest times of my life.

Petra, the Christian Rock band of the day, was one of my favourite music groups. I think I owned every cassette and knew every word off by heart. As I’ve been playing their songs today, and realizing that the words of their songs are permanently written on my heart.

Words that would remind me that no matter what this life threw at me, No Weapon Formed Against Us shall prosper.

No weapon formed against us shall prosper

All that arises against us shall fall

I will not fear what the devil might bring me

I am a servant of God

Words that would give me words to pray

First I want to thank you Lord for being who you are

For coming to the rescue of a man who’s drifted far

For calling me to be your son and calling me to serve

Lord, the way you bless my life is more than I deserve

This is my prayer, lifted to you

Knowing you care even more than I do

This is my prayer, lifted in your name

Your will be done – I humbly pray

Let me be the evidence of what your grace can do

To a generation struggling to find themselves in you

May they come to know the love of God

May their eyes be made to see

Give me the opportunity to share the truth that sets them free

And may unity in all things be the banner of your church

And let your fire again begin to burn, begin to burn

And words that challenged me to love, even when love seemed impossible.

Love is patient, love is kind

No lines of envy, true love is blind

Love is humble, it knows no pride

No selfish motive, hidden inside

Love is gentle, makes no demands

Despite all wrong, true love still stands

Love is holy, love is pure

It will last forever, it will endure

Love knows when to let go

Love knows when to say no

Love grows in the light of the Son

And love shows that the Son of Love has come

Love is loyal, it leaves the best

It knows the truth, it stands the test

Love is God sent in His son

Love forgives all we have done


There are so many gems from this group – words that carried me in times of struggle and in mountain top experiences. Music speaks to my soul in a way that nothing else can.

I also discovered the daily office in the Book of Alternative Services. Morning and evening prayer provided bookends to my day. In the evening, I would put on some meditative music – usually John Michael Talbot – and light a candle and pray. I would create tunes for the Phos Hilaron (below) and other parts of the liturgy so that I would remember their rich words.

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

The practice of the daily office was something that gave me strength. It was during these prayer moments that I was assured that God was with me, even when everything else spoke to the contrary. The liturgy provided words that I could pray even when words were lacking.

The third practice that I have been pondering today is Scripture memory. I was very competitive in Sunday School. I remember learning all the memory verses because our teacher had promised to by us a cassette of our choice from the Christian bookstore. I won – and of course, I choose the latest Petra tape! My homeschooling curriculum also had me memorize parts of Scripture. Some of the verses were memorized without the context – although, I think there are truths in them even if the original meaning was different. Other times I memorized whole chapters. Somehow I developed a love of Scripture very early. Prayer has never come easy, but I love reading and studying Scripture. Memorizing God’s word enabled me to carry it with me when I didn’t have access to my Bible (remember, these were the days before smart phones!). In my mid-twenties, I met a P.O.W. from the Japanese internment camp who shared his testimony with me. He also had a similar experience of having God’s word to comfort him when he did not have a Bible because of committing these verses to heart.

As some readers will know, this has been an interesting time in my life. At the moment, I’m not taking any courses and I do not have consistent work. I have been trying to reflect on the practices (such as listening to soul music, praying the daily office, and memorizing/studying Scripture mentioned above) that sustain me, that empower me, that strengthen me… and (re)incorporate them into my life. As frustrating as this time can be, it is a time of building up, a time of preparation for what comes next. I have been reminded of the rich relationship I had with Christ throughout my teenage years – the powerful presence, the prophetic visions, the joy amidst sorrow, and the knowledge that God loved me. I’ve been reminded of how impossible today felt and yet after prayer, scripture, and music, I managed to get through so much as a teen.Without this, I likely would have given up on Christianity as so many with similar life experiences have.

I think my relationship with Christ has deepened and matured over the years. But I long for that closeness that I knew so well and that carried me through my youth. The palpable presence of God and the engagement of heart, body, mind and soul.

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