Petra at 50: Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out (1989)


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 eleventh studio album and twelfth overall, 1989’s Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out.

The Backstory

Petra was in the ascendancy in 1989, and that is saying something considering they’d made a decade’s worth of great albums. During the early years of Petra and well into the 1980s, many pastors, churches, and people within had been highly critical of Petra and bands like them, believing rock and roll was “the devil’s music.” However, as the 80s wore on some of the youth pastors who had been more amenable to Petra in the early days became senior pastors. They were more open to the idea of Petra, or outright fans themselves, and churches began warming up to the idea of Petra. It helped that Petra began touring with apologist and evangelist Josh McDowell during his “Why Wait?” campaign, geared at teaching teens to wait until marriage to have sex. This gave Petra more credibility with churches, so the band  began asking youth pastors what they could do to help them. They gave the members of Petra the idea of taking praise and worship songs and making them sound more current so that youth would enjoy them. Petra took that ball and rolled with it, and Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out was the result.

Album Overview

This album would be different in many ways, the first of which is that, for the first time since 1977, Petra was releasing an album not on the StarSong label. After a decade, Petra was now with Word Records. Bob Hartman and John Lawry would produce the album, with the Elefantes providing support. Hartman, who usually writes the vast majority of songs which end up on Petra albums, wrote just two songs for the album. The rest would be Petra versions of praise and worship songs already in use in many churches. That said, the Petra sound with which fans had become accustomed over the past two to three albums was definitely there, with a customary lineup of rock songs with a few ballads mixed in. They definitely put a Petra spin on songs that were familiar to many. The results were probably greater than could have been imagined. Petra Praise became the first album for the band to be certified Gold and the reach of the band to a younger generation grew exponentially.

My Origin Story

As I discussed in the previous entry about On Fire!, the summer of 1988 was a transformative time for me. I finished sixth grade and was moving from elementary school to junior high. I began watching MTV that summer and decided I wanted to be Joe Elliott of Def Leppard. And at church, I went from children’s activities to the youth group, and at youth group they played contemporary Christian music – and that meant they played Petra. I loved On Fire! from the moment I started hearing it. Fast forward one year later and my youth minister announced that Petra would be playing a concert, not just in our city of Charlotte, NC, but at my church! My church had grown substantially in the 1980s and in 1988 had opened a new sanctuary, the “worship center,” seating over 2000 people. Long story short, I would get to see Petra LIVE! 

The date was November 9, 1989, a Thursday night. My mom bought two tickets and I brought a friend. I got to see the On Fire! set with the big sword. I remember it being a great concert. But since I wasn’t “in the know” as to when new music came out, and I didn’t frequent Christian bookstores as much as I would just a couple of years later, I hadn’t even heard about Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out. So I was surprised to learn about it at the concert, where I heard several of the songs and bought the album on cassette. This was the night by Petra fandom when up about ten levels.

Album Information

  • Released: October 3, 1989
  • Album Length: 45:58
  • Label: DaySpring/Word
  • The Band: Bob Hartman (guitar, arrangements), John Schlitt (lead vocals), John Lawry (keyboards, background vocals, arrangements), Ronny Cates (bass), Louie Weaver (drums)
  • Additional Musicians: Greg Vail (saxophone on “Friends (All in the Family of God)”), John Elefante (background vocals), Walt Harrah (background vocals, vocal arrangements), Charlie Hoage (background vocals), Cathy Riso (background vocals), Rick Riso (background vocals), Sara Tennison (background vocals)
  • Producers: Bob Hartman and John Lawry
  • Recording:
    • Howard Levy (engineer at The Pond, Franklin, TN)
    • Gary Heddon (engineer at The Pond, Franklin, TN)
    • Dino Elefante (engineer at Recording Arts, Nashville, TN; engineer and mixing at Pakaderm Studio, Los Alamitos, CA, “live” at Trunks Arena)
    • Carl Tatz (engineer at Recording Arts)
    • Mike Miereau (engineer and mixing at Pakaderm Studio, “live” at Trunks Arena)
    • John Elefante (engineer and mixing at Pakaderm Studio, “live” at Trunks Arena)
    • Jeff Simmons (assistant engineer at Pakaderm Studio, “live” at Trunks Arena)
    • Bret Teegarden (mixing at Duckworth Studio, Nashville, TN [“Take Me In” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”])
    • Tommy Greer (mixing at Duckworth Studio [“Take Me In” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”])
    • Mastered at Future Disc, Hollywood, CA
    • John Elefante (production assistant)
    • Dino Elefante (production assistant)
    • Loren Balman (cover concept)
    • Teri Short (cover coordinator)
    • Jackson Design (design)
    • Mark Tucker (photography)


1. “I Love The Lord” (3:35) – lyrics by Bob Hartman – This is a quintessential Petra praise song. It’s simple. Ronny Cates’s bass is thumping throughout. Louie Weaver is pounding the drums. Hartman’s riffs are extremely catchy, and he shines in a short solo at about the 1:40 mark. Lyrically, the song is about standing firm in the faith, even in the midst of opposition, and not being ashamed to say, “I love the Lord!” The challenge comes at the end of the second verse: “Gotta choose today whom you will serve. Don’t try to wait to find the nerve. The lines are drawn. No middle ground. Don’t you know you’re either lost or found?” 

2. “King of Kings” (1:47) – lyrics and music by Sophie Conty and Naomi Batya – This one starts with a keyboard build that almost sounds like a sports television theme. Then you have the male voices with the “King of kings and Lord of lords” while the higher voices, along with John Schlitt, are singing “Jesus, Prince of Peace, Glory! Alleluia!” This is a short one that leads right into the next song.

3. “Jesus, Jesus, Glorious One” (2:18) – lyrics and music by Curtis Peifer – Weaver goes off on drums to start this one, then you get a choir singing the verse. Schlitt takes a back seat for much of this song, his voice complementing the choir before he takes lead with the choir for the second verse.

4.  “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” (3:04) – lyrics and music by Jaime Owens-Collins – Petra takes a notch with one. Schlitt sings lower than normal in lead but it does build later in the song as the voices sing “Glory and honor! Power and strength to the Lord!” You can hear Hartman’s guitar a bit doing more than the normal riff toward the end.

5. “Take Me In” (4:11) – lyrics and music by Dave Browning – Petra keeps it mellow with this one, with Schlitt once again starting this song singing lower than normal. This song draws on temple imagery, the Holy of Holies, which only the High Priest could enter once a year, but now we can enter the presence of God by the blood of Christ. “Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am” draws on Isaiah 6. Schlitt sings higher as the song reaches its climax.

6. “Salvation Belongs to Our God” (2:06) – lyrics and music by Adrian Turner and Pat Howard – Petra gets back to a more rocking praise song with this one, though it tricks you with slower lyrics in the beginning. Schlitt is once again joined by a choir supporting him. 

7. “The King of Glory Shall Come In” (3:10) – lyrics and music by Bob Hartman – This is the second song by Hartman on this album, and it not so coincidentally is one of my two favorite songs on the album. Based on Psalm 24, this song is about the One who is worthy to ascend the hill of the Lord. 

8. “No Weapon Formed Against Us” (1:44) – unknown author – Aside from the songs Hartman penned for this album, this song is a highlight of the album, as I feel it shows the band at its best, whether it be John Lawry’s keyboard intro, Weaver’s drums driving the pace, or Schlitt going high. 

9. “I Will Celebrate/When the Spirit of the Lord” (4:15) – lyrics and music by Linda Duvall – A choir of voices does the majority of the singing on this one, with Schlitt coming in as a complement. 

10. “I Will Sing Praise” (2:45) – lyrics and music by Jacque DeShelter – The guitar intro is a highlight to this song. Schlitt is featured more in lead, particularly on the back half, though the choir of voices starts out. 

11. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (4:12) – lyrics and music by Bill Ancira – Probably the best of the slower songs on this album, taking a line from the Lord’s Prayer and really helping explain what that means in song. Some of Schlitt’s best work on this album is in this song. It’s one of the few songs I could see fitting in some fashion on another Petra album.

12. “Friends (All in the Family of God)” (4:20) – lyrics and music by John Wierick – This one… just does not work for me. Petra brings a doo wop approach to praise and worship with this one. They would do it a bit better later on (though even that song is a bit divisive for Petra fans). This one, though, is kitsch. The message is fine, but it’s not Petra.

13. “I Will Call Upon the Lord” (3:48) – lyrics and music by Michael O’Shields – The album closes with two of the most familiar praise songs at the time. This is recorded live from a concert, and if you went to a concert during this era it should be very familiar to you, as they did this song in the round. I remember it at pretty much every Petra concert I went to during these years. 

14. “We Exalt Thee” (3:46) – lyrics and music by Pete Sanchez – Petra brings it down to close the album, drawing attention to the need to lift up the Lord in exaltation. This is a fine rendition of a very familiar worship song.

Ranking the Albums

  1. This Means War! 
  2. On Fire!
  3. More Power To Ya
  4. Never Say Die 
  5. Come and Join Us
  6. Not Of This World
  7. Back to the Street
  8. Captured In Time And Space
  9. Beat The System
  10. Petra
  11. Washes Whiter Than
  12. Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out – I understand completely what Petra was trying to do here, and by almost any measure they succeeded. They produced an album for the times, hitting youth groups where they lived (pun intended) with late 80s praise music with a Petra bent. It’s well produced and well done. It’s just not for me. While the Petra sound is there, it’s just not by cup of tea. It’s no happenstance that my favorite two songs on the album are written by Hartman. They are the two that sound most like the band of the past two albums. Petra Praise did big business, made a big impact in youth groups, and exposed the band and Christian rock in general to even more people. You can’t argue with that, but as far as these rankings go, this one goes to the bottom.

The #Petra50

“I Love the Lord” and “The King of Glory Shall Come In” are good. “No Weapon Formed Against Us” is solid. But nothing on this album cracks the top fifty, so the list, for the first time, stays completely the same.

  1. “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” – from This Means War! (1)
  2. “More Power To Ya” – from More Power To Ya (2)
  3. “Adonai” – from Beat The System (3)
  4. “Whole World” – from Back to the Street (4)
  5. “Grave Robber” – from Not Of This World (5)
  6. “Hit You Where You Live” – from On Fire! (6)
  7. “Chameleon” from Never Say Die (7)
  8. “Road to Zion” – from More Power To Ya (8)
  9. “Godpleaser” – from Captured In Time And Space (9)
  10. “Not Of This World” – from Not Of This World (10)
  11. “This Means War” – from This Means War! (11)
  12. “Come and Join Us” – from Come and Join Us (12)
  13. “All Fired Up” – from On Fire! (13)
  14. “The Praise Medley [“Let Everything That Hath Breath” / “Without You We Could Do Nothing” / “Praise Ye The Lord” / “Hallelujah Chorus”] – from Captured In Time And Space (14)
  15. “Angel of Light” – from Never Say Die (15)
  16. “Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows” – from More Power To Ya (16)
  17. “Hollow Eyes” – from Beat The System (17)
  18. “Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened” – from This Means War! (18)
  19. “Stand in the Gap” – from On Fire! (19) 
  20. “Fool’s Gold” – from Back to the Street (20)
  21. “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – from Come and Join Us (21)
  22. “It Is Finished” – from Beat The System (22)
  23. “Woman Don’t You Know” – from Come and Join Us (23) 
  24. “Where Can I Go” – from Come and Join Us (24)
  25. “Not By Sight” – from Not Of This World (25)
  26. “Clean” – from Captured In Time And Space (26)
  27. “King’s Ransom” – from Back to the Street (27)
  28. “First Love” – from On Fire! (28) 
  29. “You Are My Rock” – from This Means War! (29)
  30. “Counsel of the Holy” – from On Fire! (30)
  31. “Beat The System” – from Captured In Time And Space (31)
  32. “For Annie” – from Never Say Die (32)
  33. “Magic Mirror” – from Washes Whiter Than (33) 
  34. “The Coloring Song” – from Never Say Die (34)
  35. “Bema Seat” – from Not Of This World (35) 
  36. “Back to the Street” – from Back to the Street (36)
  37. “Get On Your Knees and Fight Like A Man” – from This Means War! (37)
  38. “Somebody’s Gonna Praise His Name” – from On Fire! (38)
  39. “Magic Words”- from Washes Whiter Than (39)
  40. “Why Should the Father Bother?” – from Washes Whiter Than (40)
  41. “Walkin’ in the Light” – from Petra (41)
  42. “The Water Is Alive” – from This Means War! (42)
  43. “Killing My Old Man” – from Never Say Die (43)
  44. “Stand Up” – from More Power To Ya (44)
  45. “Morning Star” – from Washes Whiter Than (45)
  46. “Second Wind” – from More Power To Ya (46)
  47. “You Are I Am” – from Back to the Street (47)
  48. “I Am Available” – from This Means War! (48)
  49. “Mary’s Song” – from Washes Whiter Than (49)
  50. “All The King’s Horses” – from This Means War! (50) 

Parting Thought

It took me over three weeks from the On Fire! post to put this one together. The reason has little to do with a lack of time. The reasons are two: 1) I don’t really enjoy listening to this album like I do almost all other Petra albums. As I stated above, this album was successful and did what it was set out to do. You can’t call it a dud. It just wasn’t for me. I wanted regular Petra with this album and didn’t get it. 2) Because of that, I don’t really listen to this album very often, and wasn’t into listening to this album repeatedly as I have the others to prepare for these posts. This is a once-in-a-while album for me.

That said, Petra Praise – The Rock Cries Out was revolutionary for the industry, years ahead of its time. The contemporary Christian music scene would, years later, be supersaturated with “praise and worship” music (to its detriment, in my opinion). Petra, as it often was, was on the front foot of Christian music. After This Means War!On Fire!, and now this album, Petra was reaching its peak, a peak it would realize with its next offering.

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