Audrey Assad: Pitfalls and Prosperity
The deeply contemplative singer-songwriter talks with Kevin Davis about a how her current faith journey has shaped several songs from her new album, Fortunate Fall.

Audrey Assad has captivated listeners with her artistry and emotionally stirring recordings. In 2010, she released her debut album, For Love of You, which spawned the hit songs "For Love of You" and "Restless." It was one of the best-selling albums by a new artist that year, and she was nominated for Best Female Vocalist.

She returned in 2012 with Heart, which featured the standout songs, "Sparrow," "Blessed are the Ones," and "O My Soul." Her album was flawlessly produced by Marshall Altman and received overwhelming praise from critics and fans. As it goes in the world of music-making, Audrey lost her recording contract, and right away launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, returning with her first independent album, Fortunate Fall, released Aug. 13, 2013. 

If you liked her previous vertical focused songs, "Everything Is Yours," "Show Me" and "O My Soul," then you are in for a treat with this album, which flows beautifully from song to song, and is set in three movements. The first movement includes the title track, "Help My Unbelief" and "Humble." The songs are all prayers and personal confessions of submission to God. These are great songs to pray along with Audrey and express your own yearnings for holiness and God's presence.

I had the great opportunity to speak with Audrey about songs from the second and third movements of her album, and this is what she shared with me.

I'd love to hear about your song "I Shall Not Want" and how that flows into "Good to Me." That's one of my favorite sections of your album. I'd love to hear about the writing process of that second movement.

"I Shall Not Want," I think, is song two in the second movement. I didn't write the record in completely sequential order, but it did generally go that way. I started out with "Fortunate Fall" and that's comprised of the three transitional tracks, starting with the first track, the fourth, and I think the seventh or eighth. Those are all their own theme and they sort of separate the movements. Movement two is focused on Psalm 23.

"I Shall Not Want" I wrote with a friend named Brian. We wrote it together based on something called the Litany of Humility, which was written by a man named Cardinal Deval sometime, I believe, at the turn of the 20th century. He died in 1930 I think, but he has these lines in it like, "From the desire of being consulted, deliver me oh God and from the fear of being forgotten, deliver me oh God." Then like this one, "That others may be chosen and then I set aside. Jesus grant me the grace to desire it."

Really, really, really difficult prayer that whenever I read it, those lines highlight my desire for the preference of other people. It's a pitfall that we all face, I think, and it's one thing to sort of build our character for the love of like the right thing or the love of God, but it's another thing to be concerned with other people's opinions all the time. I struggle with that quite a bit, with people pleasing and things like that.

That was the inspiration for the song, originally. I felt like it was a good idea to really dig into the prayer and offer a refrain that would give some hope to the situation. It's like if I give up everything for you, if I consider everything as a loss, like false as in Philippines 3. If I've considered all I've lost to know Christ, then I'm not going to want anything. I'm not going to be less as if that life is a sad life. It's not.

The shepherd will never lead us through anything including the loss of things like other people's admiration or good opinion without giving us a return, which is the supreme good that Paul talks about out of knowing Christ Jesus and gaining Him and being found in Him. That's kind of the theme, I guess, and the meaning of why the lyrics are the way they are in that song.

We're called to be humble and yet the world tells us not to be. I think that's, again, one of the counter cultural messages of the Gospel, but then I love the prayer-forward response, which is, "Deliver me, oh God, and I shall not want. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him." In the transition there's an exclamation point. Trusting in the goodness of God, tasting and seeing that He's good—that makes it easier.

In Psalm 23, the most famous Psalm probably, I think it's really easy to gloss over the fact that it is talking about a lot of very dark things: the valley of the shadow of death, evil, fearing no evil, the table before my enemies. His rod and His staff—which are talking about discipline and chastisement, correction at least on some level—are all things that are unpleasant, and the fact that we "shall not want" has nothing to do with prosperity in any way other than spiritually, I think.

If I look at my real life problems, I know that one of the things I battled the most in life is attachment to respect or consideration, good opinion, all that stuff. Those things are my enemies. Those are not things that I should give room to.

The Lord is calling us to a richer and a sweeter life, but the fear of humility exists for us. We don't want that. It's not pleasant. At least it doesn't seem like it will be pleasant, but then I just thought but if I taste God's goodness through this detachment from these things that I'm fixated on, I won't want for anything. That's the promise of the Gospel, that He is enough for us. It was kind of another angle of Psalm 23. I wanted to look at it from a different way.

I'd love to hear more about the song "You Speak." In that section about Jesus promises another helper, the Holy Spirit, and that He will abide with us forever. I I'd love to hear about the writing process and message of that one to you.

This one I wrote alone as well, and it's one of my favorites. It's one of the ones on the record that is the most—I don't want to use the word personal because it's not a journal entry. It's not like that, but it is maybe the song of my heart right now and my life the most.

I took the inspiration from several places.  One of them being a Mother Teresa Quote that says, "In the silence of the heart, God speaks." If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you and you will know that you are nothing. It is when you realize that you're nothing and it's your emptiness that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

I really respond to that because I have such a hard time carving out the time in the room for silence in my life and in my heart and in my mind and I've always since a very young age, since I can remember, been the kind of person who lies awake at night for hours and can't fall asleep because I can't quite my mind.

This phase in my life that I am seeking to change because I think it's partially maybe just how I'm bent or whatever, but also I know there's some spiritual dysfunction there for me that I can't face myself. I'm afraid to face myself. If I'm silent, then your walls are gone.

The first verse it says, "You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos, from the chains of a lesser law you set me free." That is a reference to the barriers I put up by just refusing to calm down and be quiet and also just the examination of—I don't know. I feel like I just come to the Lord so many times with like I'm telling Him all the things He already knows kind of about my own problems. I think I need just a deeper prayer is for me to contemplate Him and just sit there and receive and give love and adoration and I don't have to talk to Him all the time. 

Not intimacy. Would you talk to your wife all day every day? That wouldn't be intimate. That's where I kind of think I am struggling the most in the recent years of my life and so I'd say it hits the most closely to home for me right now. Scripturally, in Mark 4 there's a parable that Jesus tells about the seller of the seed and at the end it says then Jesus said whoever has ears to hear, let them hear. That's Mark 4:9.

I think that's interesting because it basically says to me that when we're listening to God speaking, ears are not enough. We have to listen with faith to really hear His voice and let it take root in our hearts because the seed he's speaking of in Mark 4 could definitely be seen as the word of God.

That's "In the silence of the heart You speak. It is there that I will know You and You will know me in the silence of the heart." The silence of the heart that I'm speaking of is this fertile silence. It's the ears of my heart being open and listening to hear the voice of God. That's what I'm wanting in my life so that's what I'm writing about because it's what I need to pray for. That's why I wrote You Speak I would say.

It was a joy and a privilege to hear you sing and then to really dig into what you're singing about and then to really get excited and go, "Yes, these are my prayers as well." Thank you as always for your time, for your ministry of music, making this kind of music, and I'm excited to share this with readers. 

Thank you. You too, Kevin. I really appreciate your time as well so much. Thank you for those words and your prayers.

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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