God Be In My Head

God Be In My Head
The first time I heard Rupert speak of this beautiful old prayer, I was struck by the simplicity of the words.

I loved the balance of the two halves of each line. The plea for God to be present in every part of the person praying. I put the prayer away in my invisible rucksack of wonderful texts and would occasionally say the words to myself. I knew the best-known setting of the prayer, which is often sung by choirs in churches, and I started thinking I would like to make a setting of my own. I have owned my battered guitar since I was a teenager, and it felt natural to write a tune that could be played and sung almost like a folk song. I found the first half of each line wanted to repeat itself – elongating the word ‘my’. I’m not a very strong singer, so each time I sang it to myself the length of that ‘my’ would vary depending on how much breath I had. I liked that, as it seemed to make the setting more spontaneous – and I’ve never written the tune down onto manuscript!

I took the finished setting to my brother Simon, and he recorded it very sensitively for me*. I have recently listened again to that recording, and it is quite different from a live performance. 

At Rupert’s Lincoln retreat, I sang the prayer with the wonderful 40-strong choir we formed for the week. I realised that if they hummed a low A while I sang the prayer, it created an extra layer and something quite mysterious, which I think we all felt. It is written in A minor with a simple guitar melody that becomes A major, right at the end, when the person praying faces death of the body. The guitar melody never resolves to an A but is left suspended – as are we!

I’ve written poetry and songs for years, but this prayer, its association with Rupert, and its meaning for me in my own life gives it a special place in my heart.


*Listen to the original audio recording here. Written and performed by Shena Power, recorded by Simon Power

Watch the live performance of God Be In My Head below; filmed at the Vedanta retreat celebration evening – September 2022.

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