Saturday, October 1, 2016
Lord Listen to Your Children Praying -- Ken Medema
It was a seminal moment. This blind therapist was reaching out, with the assistance of some of his young friends, to someone who needed to know he wasn’t alone. And that’s when something kicked in for Ken Medema, as he began to sing “Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” in a hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. No wonder Ken remembers that moment, because it was the beginning of something that has endured for over 40 years. The method he used was so effective, he’s kept it up as he’s traveled to concert after concert. He just cannot seem to get enough of relating to his hearers and reaching out with a message, and continuing to play the role of therapist.
Ken Medema didn’t start out to be a music performer, but perhaps he himself would say his life just sort of evolved that way as a result of his own development and remedy for a handicap. Perhaps one would technically call his blindness a handicap, but noting how Ken’s life has progressed makes one wonder if that has actually allowed God to work through him in a greater way. He’s been playing the piano since he was five years old, thereby learning the language of the keyboard and developing an improvisational ability that is rare. So, after a childhood and early adult years filled with musical training, it was no surprise that his professional life was proceeding as a musical therapist when he was 30 and living in Indiana in 1973. He’d probably admit that the therapy he sought to impart to hospital patients was in fact what ministered to him too from his early childhood. As he and some youths prayed for a patient one day, it was Ken’s spontaneous musical spirit that coaxed a request from his being. ‘Lord, listen to your children praying’, he asked his divine Father. He and the others sang the chorus gently as they thought about the patient’s need and the compassion of Him above. Whether Ken’s impulses at that moment also spawned the rest of the song’s three verses that eventually were recorded is not clear, but at some point he must have thought about prayer throughout history and what the future would hold. ‘Walls atumblin down’ (v. 1) and ‘..waters roll[ing]’ (v.2) speak of a composer who was aware and excited about what the Almighty had already proved He could do centuries earlier. ‘A brand new song’ (v.3) sounds like Ken was dreaming of something like what an apostle saw and heard in all our futures (Revelation 5, 14). Ken’s apparently kept going with this musical technique he initiated in the hospital, if you’ve ever been to one of his concert appearances. He’s continued singing to send messages of social import to those who will listen, and he reportedly improvises many of his works from audience and-or speakers’ requests. That habit says something about Ken’s connections and trust – both vertically and horizontally.
Ken Medema’s last 40 years may seem like an extended episode of his hospital experience in 1973 Indiana -- maybe what you’d say is a defining moment, but not really an unforeseen moment. He’d been prepared for over 20 years to do something as a 30-year-old, after all. People around him no doubt saw the unique talent he possessed, even though blind, from his boyhood. He was a guy who could see what others could not, who evidently felt the Spirit move within himself, was waiting and serving up until he was 30, and then in a self-actualized way, went where his Father directed him. Do you think he was mimicking another fellow who started something special around his 30-year mark?
See the song story in this source: The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.
See biography of composer here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Medema