Five Petra Songs That Taught Me the Truth

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To be perfectly clear up front – this is not a joke. This is not some sarcastic, ironic, wink-at-the-audience type of article. This is real. I am sure there are many out there that either do not know who Petra was or many that do know and wish they did not. For any number of reasons, though Petra was one of the most popular and well-loved rock bands in the Christian music scene, there is a level of indifference, or worse, disdain directed towards them and towards that entire era of “Christian rock.” Someday, I hope to further explore the peculiar myopia of the Christian music world. In no other genre of music are the historical roots ignored like Christian music. It is as if any artist, band, or song that did not come out in the past few years does not even exist. However, as I said, that is an article for another day.1 Today, I do want to shine a light on a band that paved the way for so many others. A band that sold millions of records, won dozens of Dove and Grammy Awards, and most importantly, gave kids like me some absolutely great music to listen to. Music that was not only cool but that imparted great truth to a young, impressionable mind. So here are five, of the many, truths in Petra songs that spoke to me in my youth and helped me see God, the church, and spirituality in a much clearer way. I have included a Spotify playlist with the Five songs at the end of the article.

 

Petra taught me to be more outwardly focused.

Song: Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows
Album: More Power to Ya (1982)
Scriptural Support: Matthew 25:35-48, John 13:34-35, Luke 6:27-36.

Key Lyric:
Out on the doorstep lay the masses in decay
Ignore them long enough, maybe they’ll go away
When you have so much you think, you have so much to lose
You think you have no lack, when you’re really destitute

This album came out when I was four years old, so it took me some time to discover it and truly appreciate what I was hearing. This song in particular worked slowly on me. I responded immediately to the opening of the song – with an organ churning out “Showers of Blessing” and then transitioning to the acoustic guitar melody. When the truth behind the song finally broke through for me, it was a lightning bolt type moment. So many times our churches are insulated things. We build walls in so many ways to keep out the ugliness and messiness of the world. As believers, we are no different. This song challenges me every time I hear it. It pushes and prods me to reach out more, to care more, and to love more.

 

Petra taught me that prayer is a vital part of the Christian life.

Song: Stand In the Gap
Album: On Fire (1988)
Scriptural Support: 1 Chronicles 16:11, James 5:16, Ezekiel 22:30, 2 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Timothy 2:1.

Key lyric:
Stand in the gap
Coming boldly to His throne of grace
Stand in the gap
He will hear you when you seek His face

Too often, prayer can feel like a last resort. When someone we love is hurting, we look for any numbers of ways to help. We exhaust ourselves trying to “fix” the problem, usually to poor result. Scripture makes it clear that we should seek the face of God first and often. While this was a truth taught to me at home and in church, this song brought the truth home in a way I had not understood before. Our lives are a battlefield and when one of us is wounded, our job is to stand in the gap, defending and upholding them with our powerful and effective prayers.

 

Petra taught me that my eyes are closed to the suffering in the world.

Song: Hollow Eyes
Album: Beat the System (1984)
Scriptural Support: Matthew 25:35-48, Psalm 9:9; 10:14; 12:5, 7; 34:18; 37:18-19.

Key Lyric:
The least of these is hungry.
The least of these is sick.
The least of these needs clothing.
The least of these needs drink.
The least of these knows sorrow.
The least of these knows grief.
The least of these has suffered pain, and Jesus is His name.

I am not sure how old I was when I first heard this song. I do remember being very young. I also remember a long drive from the interior of Panama, back to our home in Panama City, when I listened to this song. This might have been around the same time I first heard it, or it could have been a short time later. I was one of those kids that would latch on to new music like it was essential to my continued existence. I soaked it in completely. I have a distinct memory of hearing this song at night while on the road. I remember hearing the haunting words and melody. I remember being shaken by it, down to my very bones. All at once, this song widened my perspective of the world, showed me the truth of worldwide suffering, and made it perfectly clear that to ignore all of it, was to ignore Jesus Himself.

Petra taught me that God is my Rock.

Song: You Are My Rock
Album: This Means War (1987)
Scriptural Support: Psalm 18:1-6, Psalm 31

Key Lyric:
You are my rock, my fortress, my shield
You are my rock, let Your strength be revealed
My rock, my comfort, my peace
My salvation, my refuge, my God
You are my Rock

While this album came out when I was 9 or 10 years old, I truly hit my music obsession stride around my early teens. This Means War! was a landmark moment. It hit me at a time when I was struggling with assurance of my faith. With the gentle wisdom and patience of my parents and albums like this, I was able to nail things down in a permanent way. This song in particular was a huge help. There were times, in my head, when things felt out of control. My spirit felt like it was being tossed and turned, this way and that, with fear and doubt. This song became an anchor point, a rallying cry to me. When I felt surrounded by the darkness, God’s inescapable light would break through. I was never standing alone.

 

Petra taught me that God has conquered death forever.

Song: Grave Robber
Album: Not of This World (1983)
Scriptural Support: Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17

Key Lyric:
Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

This is a song that has encouraged me for the majority of my life. For one, it is full of Scripture, with verses and passages woven in and out of the lyrics. It is a bold and full statement of faith that our God is stronger than death. He is the grave robber and the killer of death. Secondly, the song itself is upbeat; building to a powerful bridge and final restatement of the chorus. The band chose to make the song triumphant and victorious, instead of contemplative and reserved. The melody and style do much in imparting the true power behind the lyrics. Our hearts might still ache for those who have gone before, but we are promised a reunion of joy where we will witness death being swallowed by the giver of life.

 

I could probably write about another dozen songs by Petra that spoke to me just as powerfully. I could talk about Godpleaser or Adonai. I could go on and on about Creed, He Came, He Saw, He Conquered, or Hey World. I could spend hours discussing the songs, the words, and the integral role music has played in my life. I won’t. This is enough for now. I am eternally grateful for the way God has used music to teach me, mold me, and help me see Him more clearly. Petra was a big part of that.

 

 

  1. That day is here! Part One is available here.

Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my church, my family, my friends, Firefly, 80's rock, Lost, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc...

22 thoughts on “Five Petra Songs That Taught Me the Truth

  • April 21, 2017 at 11:55 am
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    For what it’s worth, my favorite era of Petra music was from around 1987 until 1993. That run, with This Means War, On Fire, The Rock Cries Out, Beyond Belief, Unseen Power, and Wake-Up Call is the most consistent in the band’s discography.

    Reply
  • April 21, 2017 at 5:40 pm
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    I, too, am thankful for Petra (and for my boys for “introducing” them to me, in a sense). I rank ” Grave Robber” up there as one of the most powerful songs I have ever heard – and I have heard a lot of songs down through my seven decades. Other personal favorites – among many I could mention – include “Road to Zion,” “Fool’s Gold,” “The Coloring Song,” and “Why Should the Father Bother?” And that from a guy who grew up listening to Southern Gospel and loves it passionately!

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  • April 22, 2017 at 10:19 am
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    Well said. Would love to read that future article on myopia in music. I listened to the Beyond Belief album for several days last week. In my humble opinion, the opening riff on the song Beyond Belief is among the best 60 seconds of music ever recorded, and I’ll never be convinced otherwise!

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    • April 23, 2017 at 9:46 am
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      I am working on it Tim. It will take some time to put it together.

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      • December 28, 2017 at 4:00 am
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        Did it come to fruition? I’d love to read it

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        • December 28, 2017 at 9:15 am
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          It will be a multi-part series that we will start publishing early in 2018. Stay tuned.

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          • May 21, 2018 at 10:36 am
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            I trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior in February of 1991. The Christian music I was introduced to at first was tepid. Then, I was referred to a local Christian bookstore that had an upstairs music department.

            It was there I first discovered Petra, Whiteheart, Shout, Tamplin, Code of Ethics (for my synth pop fix), Scott Blackwell, and many others.

            As I was raised on classic rock radio, I was astonished at the lack of music history in Christian music. Chronological snobbery turned me off to mainstream pop music in the late 80s. The belief that newer is better was already rejected in my head before I became a believer.

            I began searching online for CCM’s history and was surprised how the movement’s forebears were buried in the sands of time.

            I look forward to reading the series!

  • April 22, 2017 at 3:41 pm
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    Couldn’t agree more. Petra’s influence on generation after generation is powerful. As a lay youth director in the 80’s, Petra was integral in helping me teach that there was GOOD rock n roll that teens could enjoy that didn’t include the moral decay of the mainstream bands of the day. Petra opened a door to the rest of Christian music most of my kids got really excited about. It is also forgotten that Petra was one of the first, if not the first, band in Christian rock to do a dedicated praise album (Petra Praise 1 & Petra Praise 2). For me, Beyond Belief is the best Christian rock album ever made!

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    • April 22, 2017 at 6:16 pm
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      Good point about their impact on praise and worship genre. I totally agree with Phill that too few people take the history of Christian rock seriously

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  • December 27, 2017 at 3:41 pm
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    I have included Grave Robber on my playlist for my FUNeral!

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  • December 27, 2017 at 3:48 pm
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    For Me It Was *Godpleaser*

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  • December 27, 2017 at 4:00 pm
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    Love everyone’s input. Petra is and will forever be a huge part of my live. Many of their songs still touch and teach me something new when i hear it. In my opinion, as far as “classic rock” goes, Not of This World is thier best record. The lyrics, music arraignments are just second to none. Thank you.

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  • December 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm
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    I started listening to Petra when I went to summer bible camp in 1983. a friend there at camp had a walkman cassette player and had the Petra album Not of this World and he let me listen to it. I loved it so much that when I went home from camp. I started looking for Petra Music. My favorite Petra song is and always has been since 1983 was Godpleaser. I always shed a tear whenever I hear that song to this day. knowing I could and still can do more for God in my Life.

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  • December 27, 2017 at 4:41 pm
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    We played “I Just Wanna Be His Disciple” at my husband’s funeral.” I can’t wait to see Him. Just wanna hear Him say, Welcome faithful servant, enter in to joy today.” We always loved Petra’s messages.

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  • December 27, 2017 at 9:00 pm
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    Thanks for all the comments and memories. Keep ’em coming!

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  • December 28, 2017 at 3:58 pm
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    Without Petra I don’t think I would be a christian. A friend ordered Beyond Belief for me. Before that moment, I didn’t know any christian music accept Bach and some other classical composers. So that was cool. Over the years I bought every album, and boy, there are more than only five truths to learn from them! We played “Godpleaser” (the live version beats everything, even the system) at our wedding as a statement to live by.

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  • December 28, 2017 at 8:14 pm
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    Petra is and has been a major part of my Christian walk almost as long as I have been a Christian. Got started with More Power to To Ya in 1983 and have never been w/o their influence since…..

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  • December 28, 2017 at 9:31 pm
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    This means war was my first tape, and Beyond Belief my first CD. For me, the songs that resonate the most were the following:
    Fool’s Gold “I’d rather be a fool in the eyes of man than a fool in the eyes of God.”
    It is Finished. “The work had been done, redemption had been won”. It ties in to my favorite passage-Phil. 2.
    He came, He saw, He conquered. Such a simple declaration of who God is.
    All the King’s Horses. The song is one of my favorite passages. A song of hope. Meant so much to me after my dad died in 1989.
    The three songs back to back on Beyond Belief: Creed, Beyond Belief, Love.

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  • December 30, 2017 at 7:07 pm
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    I must be older than most of you. I start with the incredible opposing two octave guitar run in “Walking in the Light” from the first album to Jeckle and Hyde. God Gave Rock and Roll to You, More Power to Ya, Grave Robber, Judas Kiss, Dance, Who’s on the Lord’s Side, to Midnight Oil. Such memories, encouragement, and discipleship in my life from Petra. (Could add Degarmo and Key, Randy Stonehill, and others.)

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    • December 31, 2017 at 12:50 pm
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      Chuck, we have a series of articles planned for early 2018 that will cover a lot of those bands.

      Reply

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