Petra at 50: Not Of This World (1983)


In celebration of Petra turning fifty years old in 2022, here at I am going album by album through their discography and reflecting on the role their music has played in my life. In this post my focus is Petra’s sixth album, 1983’s Not Of This World.

The Backstory

Before and immediately after the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI last month, there was much speculation regarding the futures of Rams head coach Sean McVay and future Hall of Fame defensive lineman Aaron Donald. A couple of days after the win, at the parade, the aforementioned duo did not retire or resign. Instead, they said they were going to “run it back.” It’s a phrase that has become sports slang in recent years for going for a repeat as champion.

That’s essentially what Petra did with Not Of This WorldMore Power To Ya proved to be their most successful album yet. It would remain on the charts for Christian albums for well over two years. So Petra didn’t change much. Same lineup. Same producer. Same Texas studio. And much the same sound. In fact, it could be argued that no two back-to-back Petra albums sound as similar as More Power To Ya and Not Of This World. Indeed, Bob Hartman himself considers NOTW the musical equivalent of a “sequel.”

Album Overview

While the band lineup stayed the same on this album, there was a change in the way this album was recorded. Producer Jonathan David Brown, for reasons not entirely understood, sidelined Louie Weaver during the recording process and brought in Keith Edwards, who had drummed on the recording of Never Say Die and worked with Brown in the past. 

As to the album itself, there is something new in how it begins and ends. NOTW is bookended by the “Visions” instrumentals which lead into and out of “Not Of This World” and “Godpleaser,” respectively. Those are just two of the songs which are well-known from this album. “Grave Robber,” “Bema Seat,” and “Not By Sight” all made compilation albums later on and were concert staples.

My Origin Story

This is another one of those early albums I didn’t actually possess until 2001, but I was very familiar with most of the songs on the album thanks to The Petra Youth Choir Collection and compilations like Petrafied: The Best of Petra and Petraphonics. I particularly liked singing “Grave Robber” in youth choir. Another boy would often do this Western-style whistle at the beginning that made us laugh. Many of the songs would be some of my favorites well before I finally procured this album myself. When I finally did I was very glad to have it.

Album Information

  • Released: 1983
  • Recorded: August 1983
  • Album Length: 41:55
  • Label: StarSong, A&M
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Greg X. Volz (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion); John Slick (keyboards, backing vocals); Mark Kelly (bass, backing vocals; Louie Weaver (drums, backing vocals)
  • Producer: Jonathan David Brown (producer, recording at Rivendell Recorders, Pasadena, TX, mixing at Rivendell Recorders)
  • Recording:  
    • Dave Rogers (assistant engineer)
    • Doug Sarrett (assistant engineer)
    • Steve Hall (mastering at Future Disc Systems, Hollywood, CA)
    • Joan Tankersley (art direction)
    • Randy Rogers (illustration)
    • Lori Cooper (layout)
    • Mark Tucker (sleeve photography)
    • Vocals recorded at Gold Mine Studios, Nashville, TN


  1. “Visions (Doxology)” (2:01) – John Slick’s synthesizer is hard at work on this album, so it’s fitting that’s how the album begins. This instrumental piece gives us a hint of the “Doxology” and leads directly in to the first real song of the album. Honestly, while the piece itself is alright the album would not have suffered without it. Neither would the title track which followed. For what it’s worth, I like “Visions” better in use on the live album, Captured In Time And Space.


2. “Not Of This World” (4:52) [see it live above] – The strums of Bob Hartman’s guitars begin this song and then Greg X. Volz begins singing, “We are pilgrims in a strange land,” straight out of 1 Peter. While I have before made clear my preference for rock songs begin the albums of rock groups, the use of “Visions” mitigates that here and I really like this. “Not Of This World” has long been one of the Petra songs that meant the most to me. I recently heard someone say of this song that it reminded them they were not alone, and I get that. A faithful Christian is going to have to deal sometimes with feelings of isolation in a world which hates God, the things of God, and the people of God. But it’s very important to remember the plural pronouns “we” and “us,” which are all over this song. That said, the Christian must remember that this is not his or her home. We should not strive for the acceptance of the world because, as with the Savior, “the world will never want us here.” Nevertheless, we are envoys who must tarry, taking the gospel of Jesus to the world, knowing “our mission here can never fail.” Hartman is on his game as a songwriter here and this is a fantastic ballad.

3. “Bema Seat” (3:57) – Bring on the rock. “Bema Seat” begin with driving guitar following by the drums. This song is based upon the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 which speaks of the judgment seat at which the works of believers will be judged, and that which is not burned by the fire “wood, hay, or stubble” will be rewarded by Christ Himself. The lyric closes with one line which asks the listener whether they will be or be denied. In other words, are you sure you’ll be at this judgment? This is a solid rocker.

4. “Grave Robber” (4:20) – An argument could be made that this is Petra’s most well-known and popular ballad. It is certainly in the discussion and is just a wonderful song. Perhaps Hartman was reading a lot of 1 Corinthians at the time based on the last song and this one, because a lot of these lyrics are straight out of 1 Corinthians 15:51ff. It speaks of the return of Christ to take His own home, commonly called the rapture. The dead in Christ will be raised. This song is a great reminder that, for the Christian, the death of death is certain because Jesus is victorious, so death has no sting, no bite. This is a legendary Petra song for good reason.


5. “Blinded Eyes” (5:32) – This song begins with some rolling drums that remind me a little bit of Toto. Hartman’s guitar work is more than solid, too. What really stands out about this song instrumentally, though, is what amounts of a Mark Kelly bass solo. Lyrically, this song is about the utter inability of believers to even see the truth, much less know it, internalize it, and love it. “Blinded eyes can’t see the light when it’s glowing in the night right in front of you. Blinded eyes can’t see the truth when it’s written on the wall in plain view. Blinded eyes can’t see the Son or the work that He has done out of love for you. Blinded eyes.” This song gets overlooked a bit because of the staying power of some of the better known offerings on this album, but it’s a great album track.

6. “Not By Sight” (3:21) – This is the first of two songs (not counting the “Visions” couplet) penned by keyboardist John Slick. It starts with a Hartman riff that develops into something that sounds almost percussive. Slick’s keyboards come in big as well. Volz sings about the Christian experience of losing our bearings when storms sweep into one’s life. When those times come, the Christian must remember that we don’t live by what is temporary, but by what is true eternally. Quoting Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Our faith is not in our surrounding, but in our Savior. We are “strengthen by His glorious might.” And I love this: “Sometimes we ain’t so sure. He sees us when we’re kneelin’. Sometimes we forget salvation ain’t a feelin’. We know that Jesus died for our justification. We grow in His image by suffering tribulations.” This is as solid a non-Hartman penned Petra rock song as there is.

7. “Lift Him Up” (3:26) – If Not Of This World had been a five or six song EP it would be in the running for the best Petra album ever, but this is the beginning of a three song section that just doesn’t do much for me. This song, in particular, is among my least favorites up to this point in Petra’s discography. I certainly get the intent of the message in the song. The world isn’t going to see Jesus in us if we keep Him out of their reach. They need to see us praising Him. And I agree with that. But the lyrics get mushy to me when the chorus contains, “It doesn’t take much theology. Just lift Him up so the world can see. . . . It doesn’t take any Bible degree. Just lift Him up so the world can see.” I do not think for one second the intent of Hartman’s lyrics here is to promote some kind of anti-intellectual Christianity or communicate that you shouldn’t dive into theology; however, I do think the lyrics can be taken that way. Hartman usually communicates more clearly is all I’m saying. The deeper the theology and the further it penetrates the heart, the higher the exaltation of Christ will be. I just don’t love the lyrics here. Musically, it’s fine but nothing special. It’s a song I will often skip.

8. “Pied Piper” (4:01) – I really like the music in this song. If the keyboard isn’t there it sounds like something you’d hear on Def Leppard’s High ‘N’ Dry or even Pyromania. As a DL fan that’s a very good thing to me. Hartman’s guitar is working it. As for the lyrics, they could be directed at Satan, but are perhaps better directed at false teachers. Taking all of the Scripture references for this song into account that seems to be the case. The message is that these false teachers are tricking people today, but ultimately they are going to have to pay the ultimate Piper. Good album track.

9. “Occupy” (3:30) – John Slick wrote this song, but honestly, it doesn’t do much for me. The lyrics continue the theme of spiritual warfare which has permeated Petra’s songs since Never Say Die and would continue going forward. Slick writes of the enemy surrounding and infiltrating the ranks, but as soldiers we must be diligent. And oh by the way, the King is going return with the armies of the Lord. This one is a slower rock song. I don’t dislike the song, it’s just kind of there for me.

10. “Godpleaser” (4:36) – My first exposure to this song was youth choir and I gravitated to it. It was one of my favorites to sing. It’s chorus is basically what I want the mission of my life to me, though I know I often fail: “Don’t wanna be a man pleaser. I want to be a Godpleaser. I wanna have the wisdom to discern the two apart. . . . I just want to do the things that please the Father’s heart.” I absolutely love the lyrics of this one. The instrumentation leaves a little to be desired. While I love this song, the Not Of This World version is not my favorite version of it. I’ll elaborate more on that in a later post. Suffice it to say, I think this song works better with a little more rock. But this one definitely gives me the feels. 

11. “Visions (Reprise)” (2:26) – The “Doxology” is clear in this reprise of the opening instrumental. I like the way “Godpleaser” fades into it. The synthesized outro is an appropriate bookend for this album.

Ranking the Albums

  1. More Power To Ya
  2. Never Say Die 
  3. Come and Join Us
  4. Not Of This World – This was, by far, the most difficult album to rank thus far. I love the title track. I love “Grave Robber.” “Bema Seat” is great. “Blinded Eyes” is underrated. “Not By Sight” is solid. The second half of the album is a bit unbalanced, though. The music of “Pied Piper” I really like. The music of “Godpleaser” is wanting, though I love the song. Also, there are some songs on this album where I question the production. The keyboards are definitely becoming more prevalent in the Petra sound at this point, but my biggest qualm is with the way the drums sound. In some songs I don’t think they are mixed in very well, and sometimes you can tell they are more electronic than real. It doesn’t make the album bad by any means, but it plays a role in this album coming in below the two that preceded it in particular. Ultimately, though, this ranking came down to the fact I’ve been listening to Come and Join Us a lot lately — so much so that I’ve considered cheating and moving it above Never Say Die. I just couldn’t put NOTW above it right now. And yet I still love this album! It says more about Come and Join Us than it does Not Of This World
  5. Petra
  6. Washes Whiter Than

The #Petra50

So you know by now that I love several of the songs on Not Of This World, but some left me wanting something more, or different. Based on what I’ve written above, the “Visions” bookends, “Lift Him Up,” and “Occupy” are definitely out. That leaves “Not Of This World,” “Bema Seat,” “Grave Robber,” “Blinded Eyes,” “Not By Sight,” and “Godpleaser.” Six songs to consider, so look below to see where they fall. As always, previous rankings are in parentheses.

  1. “More Power To Ya” (1)
  2. “Grave Robber” – One of the first songs you think of when you hear the word “Petra,” and with good reason.
  3. “Chameleon” (2)
  4. “Road to Zion” (3)
  5. “Not Of This World” – I feel like this song is recognized as great by many but is still somehow overlooked and/or underrated by most.
  6. “Come and Join Us” (4)
  7. “Angel of Light” (5)
  8. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” (6)
  9. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” (7) 
  10. “Let Everything That Hath Breath” (8)
  11. “Praise Ye the Lord” (9)
  12. “Woman Don’t You Know” (10) 
  13. “Where Can I Go” (11)
  14. “Godpleaser” – Like I said before, this song is special to me but this is not my favorite version.
  15. “Not By Sight” – One of the catchiest rock songs Petra has.
  16. “For Annie” (12)
  17. “Without Him We Can Do Nothing” (13)
  18. “Magic Mirror” (14) 
  19. “The Coloring Song” (15)
  20. “Bema Seat” – This song has grown on me through the years.
  21. “Magic Words” (16)
  22. “Why Should the Father Bother?” (17)
  23. “Walkin’ in the Light” (18)
  24. “Killing My Old Man” (19)
  25. “Stand Up” (20)
  26. “Morning Star” (21)
  27. “Second Wind” (22)
  28. “Mary’s Song” (23)
  29. “Blinded Eyes” – This one didn’t make the compilation albums (I don’t think?), but it’s an underrated gem.
  30. “I Can Be Friends With You” (24)
  31. “Get Back to the Bible” (25)
  32. “Yahweh Love” (26)
  33. “Lucas McGraw” (27)
  34. “Backslidin’ Blues” (28)

Parting Thought

Petra was rolling at this point, with evidence being six songs in a list inching ever close to that 50 mark. They built on the momentum which started with Never Say Die and really got going with More Power To YaNot Of This World would win Petra its first Grammy nomination, for Best Gospel Vocal Performance by a Duet or Group, Choir or Chorus. The tour, too, would continue breaking new ground for the band, with Hartman writing it produced some of his best memories. As for the group itself, there would be one significant change after this album, with the departure of John Slick. However, a more than suitable replacement would be found.

In the end, while More Power To Ya might be the album people default to when thinking about this era of the band, it could easily be argued that Not Of This World was the high water mark. I know it’s ranked four out of six on the album chart above, but make no mistake about it: This is a must have album. When it’s good it’s so very good. There are songs on this album mandatory for anyone who claims to be a fan of Petra. Listen to the album here. This was a worthy sequel to More Power To Ya, which begs the question: How will the sequel to Not Of This World fare? Stay tuned for what’s next: Beat The System.

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