Meaning of Like a Prayer by Madonna & The Story Behind

Like a Prayer was the first composition in modern music by a world-famous artist to be featured in advertisements prior to its official release. Pepsi, backing up the offer with five million evergreens, convinced Madonna to give them the track before it hit the radio or hit record stores.

We will return to this and other amusing stories related to the song, but first we will talk about how it came into being.

The story of the creation of the song Like a Prayer Madonna

Madonna composed Like a Prayer with Patrick Leonard, with whom the singer wrote many compositions.

She spoke about their joint work in the following spirit:

We’re both Midwesterners, and deep down we’re both nuts. He is a melancholic and classically trained musician with an incredible sense of melody. We’ve been dragging each other from the start. We always manage to come up with something interesting. We don’t usually write windy songs, although we’ve had that happen too. There is something magical about our writing.

Rolling stone

The meaning of the song Like a Prayer

In an interview with Becky Johnson, Madonna spoke about the sources of inspiration for the composition and album:

From the Catholic point of view, you are born a sinner and remain a sinner throughout your life. No matter how hard you try to get rid of it, sin is always within you. This fear haunted me. He always annoyed me and hurt me. Music was probably my only way to distract myself…

Because of Catholicism, I have developed a strong sense of guilt and sinfulness that has definitely permeated my daily life, whether I like it or not. And when I do something wrong… even if I didn’t let anyone know that I made a mistake, I’m always afraid that I will be punished for it. And this is what you are forced to believe when you are brought up in a Catholic spirit. Both the song and the album come from this anxiety.


In the lyrics of the song Like a Prayer, Madonna deliberately provokes the listeners, drawing obvious parallels between feelings for her lover and attitude towards God. Undoubtedly, the singer initially understood that such ambiguity, hiding behind outwardly harmless phrases, would cause an ambiguous reaction from the public. However, shocking has always been a component of the stage image of the performer.

Madonna repeatedly emphasized the special significance of this composition:

Like a Prayer is a very important song for me. I felt the impact it would make. This song means more to me than Like a Virgin. I wrote it and it came from the heart. This is a very soulful song. I think by the time I started recording this song and album, I felt more spiritually in touch with the power of words and music.

The Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna, Rikky Roocksby

Like a Player became the first and title track of the new album. The same Patrick Leonard acted as a plastic producer. They developed the main concept for a long time and thought through various ideas, and when they came to a consensus, it took Madonna only three hours to record the track.

Like a Prayer in a Pepsi commercial

In January 1989, Pepsi-Cola announced that a new song by Madonna would be featured in a TV commercial for the popular drink. The agreement provided for the payment of five million to the singer and financial support for her world tour. On February 22, viewers saw the video for the first time during the Grammy Awards.

It makes no sense to retell the plot of the two-minute video, which was released under the name Make a Wish.

Of course, many Madonna fans were unhappy with the singer’s decision to collaborate with Pepsi. Her response to critics was:

I consider it a real challenge to create advertising that has some artistic value. I like to take on the challenge of combining art and commerce. As far as I understand, the creation of a video clip is also advertising. The Pepsi video is a special and wonderful way to introduce a song. The record companies simply don’t have enough money to finance these kind of advertising campaigns.

Madonna: An Intimate Biography, Randy Taraborrelli

The single Like a Prayer was released in early March 1989. The song was a phenomenal success and topped the charts in several dozen countries, including the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart.

The incredible popularity of the composition was facilitated by the music video, which was presented shortly after the launch of the aforementioned commercial.

Video of Like a Prayer by Madonna

The music video for Like a Prayer was directed by Mary Lambert. It has nothing to do with a cute Pepsi video. The murder of a white girl for having an affair with an African American, the stigmata on the hands of the Madonna, the kiss of a dark-skinned saint – is it any wonder that the video clip caused a flurry of accusations against the singer from various religious groups and public organizations, and the official Vatican generally cursed him.

Pepsi, faced with the threat of a boycott of its products, refused to continue cooperation with Madonna, although it had originally planned to shoot two more commercials.

But the singer is clearly not the loser. The clip was constantly played on MTV, and the devoted fans of the performer were delighted with it. Madonna had this to say about the Like a Prayer music video.

At first, when I recorded a song, I played it over and over again, trying to visualize some story or fantasy that it awakened in me. I kept imagining a story about a girl who fell madly in love with a black man somewhere in the South, where such interracial love relationships are forbidden. And the guy she fell in love with sings in the choir. She is so obsessed with him that she constantly goes to church. And then it all turned into a bigger story about racism and bigotry… Then Mary Lambert was brought in as director, and she came up with a story that had more religious symbolism than I originally put into the song.


The video clip of Like a Prayer was awarded the MTV Video Music Awards in the Viewers’ Choice nomination. It was also included in the top 100 music video lists by Rolling Stone readers and VH1 audiences.

Interesting Facts

  • The single was designed by Madonna’s brother Christopher. In the design, you can see the initials MLVC (Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone), and the falling off letter P, hinting at Sean Penn, with whom the singer had recently divorced.
  • The gospel choir Andrae Crouch participated in the recording of the song, but the performers refused to appear in the music video for Like a Prayer.
  • Madonna didn’t want to dance in a Pepsi commercial. She was able to be persuaded only by providing a choreographer that she liked.
  • The image of the dark-skinned saint, played by Leon Robinson, was inspired by the Peruvian clergyman Martin de Porres of the Dominican order.
  • In one of the working versions of the clip’s storyline, the Madonna and the saint are shot in the back.

Like a Prayer Lyrics by Madonna

life is a mystery,
Everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like home

When you call my name it’s like a little prayer
I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there
In the midnight hour I can feel your power
Just like a prayer you know I’ll take you there

I hear your voice, it’s like an angel sighing
I have no choice, I hear your voice
Feels like flying
I close my eyes, Oh God I think I’m falling
Out of the sky, I close my eyes
heaven help me

Chorus x2

life is a mystery,
Everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like…

Chorus x2

Just like a prayer
I’ll take you there
It’s like a dream to me

Like a Prayer by Madonna Lyrics Alternate

Life is a mystery
Everyone should be left alone
I hear you call my name
And feel at home

When you call my name it’s like a little prayer
I get down on my knees and want to take you there
In the midnight hour I feel your power
Just like a prayer, you know I’ll take you there

I hear your voice, it’s like an angel’s breath
I have no choice, I hear your voice
And I feel like I’m flying
I close my eyes, oh God I feel like I’m falling
From heaven I close my eyes
Heaven save me

Chorus: 2 times

Life is a mystery
Everyone should be left alone
I hear you call my name
And I feel…

Chorus: 2 times

Just like a prayer
I will take you there
It’s like a dream

Song quote

I would like to sincerely thank Pepsi for creating such a heated debate.

Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards

Add a comment