“And it hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above
Say it’s much, much too late
Well maybe we should be all be praying for time”
Taken from the album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1
US #1, UK #6, AUS #16
‘Praying For Time’ feels like the end of the world. Not the usual dear-God-the-Statue-of-Liberty-fell-into-the-sea notion of the end of days, but a slow, dark ballad about desperation and quietly nightmarish images. “The rich declare themselves poor” is a powerful line, as is “God’s stopped keeping score” – all of these scenarios evoke an importance and a grand statement of trouble. It’s like the bit in a disaster movie where everything is just beginning to go really bad.
I don’t need to tell you that, yes, George’s voice is still the best thing about this song. Some other vocalists would take a serious song like this and play it as a standard love song or something – with minimal feeling and just running through the motions. George goes from a whisper to an anguished yell, short, accusatory notes mixed in with long cries for help and awareness.
An unexpected American number one upon release twenty years ago, ‘Praying For Time’ has remained an anthem for change, but has been slightly forgotten over the years due to George’s connection with MTV and his music videos – for this song, the music video was simply a black background and the lyrics displayed on screen, the ultimate anti-image statement and rightfully putting the focus on the music. Predictably it was barely shown on TV and not included on his video collections. But recently ‘Praying For Time’ has been put back in the spotlight, first by Carrie Underwood on American Idol and then by George himself, performing the track on the same show. In 2009 it was included in a stunning live recording on the ‘December Song’ Christmas single, cementing ‘Praying For Time’s status as a song of love and hope during troubled times.