Prayer is communication with God.
It’s a simple thought, I know.
But if prayer is communication with God, singing in worship can be prayer, right? Jesus said that if we love him, we should obey him so I think you could also make the case that prayer is action. So I would say that our new song, “No Greater Love” by Matt Maher, is a musical prayer that calls us to action. You could almost start it with the words, “Our Father who art in heaven…”
For the city, for the world we pray
Let Your light shine down
Come around and live in us
For the close and the far away
Maher is using the metaphor of light in the darkness which is all through scriptures, but especially in 1 Corinthians.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. -1 Corinthians 4:6-7
Did you catch the end of the song’s verse ? “Come around, live in us, for the close the far away”…why do we ask God to live in us? For our salvation? Yes of course, but here I think Maher is looking back to the Abrahamic covenant where Abraham was blessed SO THAT he could be a blessing. In other words, we ask God to live in us SO THAT the close and the far away would see him.
Everywhere, You are
“Everywhere, you are everywhere”…where is Maher going with this? What’s the connection? Is he talking about omni-presence, like the psalmist who asks, “Where can I go from your presence? If I go to the depths you are there…”? Yes, but again I think he is also saying that when God lives in us, the spirit of God is wherever we are. If we go to the close and the far away, God is there IN US!
And we lift high the banner of the cross
There is no greater love than this, no love but this
Jesus Christ laid down His life for us
There is no greater love than His, no love but His
And here is where things get a little weird for me because of the phrase, “banner of the cross”. It’s not in the bible so where does it come from? I did a little internet snooping and I’m still not sure. But this is what I found…in 312 AD there was a general named Constantine who was about to engage in a battle. His troops were greatly outnumbered and he was facing what looked like certain defeat. The night before the battle, tradition says he saw a vision of a Cross and had his troops adorn their shields with it. Under the “banner of the cross” they won the battle of Milvian Bridge. Constantine became the Roman emperor and ended the persecution of Christians. Because of him the history of western civilization was changed. And that included things like the crusades where many innocent people were killed by soldiers under the “banner of the cross”. We’ll put that in the category of “not helpful”…that’s NOT what we’re singing about.
In the 1870’s, I found a sermon by Charles Spurgeon in which he called Christians to raise the “banner of the cross”.
Later, there was a hymn called “The Banner of the Cross” written by Daniel Whittle in 1885 that called Christians to join God’s army and follow the banner of the cross in service. That’s getting closer to what we are talking about.
But what about the bible?
While there isn’t any reference that I can find to the “banner of the cross”, there is this in Isaiah.
Raise a banner for the nations. The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! -Isaiah 62:10b-11a
So we are to raise a banner for the nations that our Savior Jesus has come to save us all. Ok, that I can get behind and it ties perfectly with 1 John 1 which is the basis for the rest of the chorus. “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” -1 John 3:16b
To the city, to the world we go
Set us free, heal the land
You have promised, God, You can
To the last and the least we go
In the poor, in the broken
In the crowded city streets
In the towers, in the money
In the strong and in the weak
In the orphans and the widows
In the churches and the bars
You are everywhere
God, You are everywhere