Small Voice Calling > The Call > Pray

“Most of the time I’m doing OK.”

When I was a child I thought as a child
We sang hymns at the close of the day
Now I’m a man I think like a man
But sometimes I wish I could pray

Ralph McTell opens his song ‘Sometimes I Wish I Could Pray’ with a reference to the thirteenth chapter of St Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Corinth – the ‘Love Chapter‘.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. (1 Corinthians 13: 11 – 12)

Children see things in an uncomplicated way. We grown-ups are quick to discard our ‘childish’ innocence, thinking that we have everything sorted. But, Paul says, even then we see the world ‘through a glass darkly’, and will not see things ‘clearly’ until we meet God face to face.

In what is probably his most soul-baring song, Ralph acknowledges that he doesn’t always have things as sorted as he’d like…

Most of the time I’m doing OK
But there are some times I wish I could pray

Just to thank someone when the danger is past
Returned to your family and friends
Or for comfort when you are tired and you’re scared
Or got problems that seem will not end

Dear Ralph,

A few years ago you included ‘Sometimes I wish I could pray’ in your concert set, and you told me, on the night I saw you, that you had omitted it out of deference to me. I wrote to you saying I thought it a wonderfully honest song and, whilst humbled by your deference, would have been delighted to have heard you sing it live. I still haven’t!

Looking at the lyrics again, I am struck by something I had not seen before. In your ‘prayer wish’ there’s no petitioning God to do this or give you that. Rather there’s a sense of gentle gratitude for assumed assistance and comfort, and of hope for a ‘happy ending’. I really like that way of thinking. And I felt God say he likes it too. For this is the essence of faith – to start the day saying ‘help me please’, and to end it in reflective mood saying ‘thank you’ for the moments that seemed to go well. And for those that didn’t, though that takes some practice!

And it’s how faith works for me. More ‘trust’ than ‘belief’, with room for ‘doubt’ and ‘still working on it’; expecting good to come from difficulty rather than wallowing in despair; knowing that whatever the world throws at us, God is actually in control, however long a stretch that seems in the here and now. And living our lives one moment at a time, savouring each one, not knowing how many more we will have this side of eternity.

Thank you once more for your songs and your friendship.

With love to all. God bless.


Just to thank someone for the stars and the sun
For the cry of a baby at birth
To believe there’s a home way up in the sky
When our journey is done on this earth

From ‘Sometimes I Wish I Could Pray’ by Ralph McTell
Full lyrics in ‘Time’s Poems’, p 143