In 1972, a group of young Christian men came together to form a band that would go on for over 30 years of ministry. In that time they released 20 studio albums (two of which went gold), won multiple Grammy and Dove awards, and had a wide reach of impact and influence on the church and the industry. A year before they released their 16th album (Petra Praise 2:We Need Jesus), a little site known as Jesus Freak Hideout came into being. Given the longevity of these two entities, it makes sense to write a top 25 list of Petra’s greatest songs in honor of JFH’s 25 birthday!
A note about the list: Petra is my favorite band. They had quite an impact on the early days of my faith when in high school. Though not in constant rotation today, I still come back to their music from time-to-time and find it comforting and convicting. That said, this list turned into a mixture of objective and subjective ranking. Some songs are here because I think they deserve to be; some show up because I love them more than others the general fan base would consider better. The great thing about Petra is that their bad songs are few and far between, so it’s hard to go wrong in making a top 25…though it was certainly hard. Okay, enough lead up, on to the list!
25. Love (Beyond Belief)
A beautiful song about what love truly is and Who is the ultimate example of love. The blend of acoustic guitar and backing choir set this track up as a powerful anthem.
In this world where push turns into shove/We have strength to rise above/Through the power of His love/Lord, we need to know the power of Your love!
24. A Matter of Time (God Fixation)
Some fans consider this album to be one of their weakest, but, personally, it has some strong tunes on it. This one in particular is a great reminder about how short life is.
God has a plan worth listening to/Not built on sand that is sifting through/It’s not too late for redeeming the time.
23. Mine Field (On Fire)
Everything about this song screams “epic”: John Schlitt’s yells, the pounding drums, the thumping bass, the eerie keyboard, the snarling guitar. It’s a great reminder that we are in a spiritual war while also pumping the believer up for battle.
Some may feel they can wander out too far/They may heal, but they may always wear the scar.
22. Get On Your Knees and Fight Like a Man (This Means War)
Keeping with the spiritual warfare theme, this song is perhaps more on the bright side. How important is prayer in a believer’s life? It could be the key to victory in everyday struggles.
Over your head the condition is graver/You’ve given ground you can’t retrieve/The cards are stacked and they’re not in your favor/But you’ve got an ace up your sleeve.
21. First Love (On Fire)
Another entry from On Fire, this one a softer ballad that achingly captures the struggle a Christian can have in staying true to the faith. The passionate determination, in spite of the heavy synths, can draw the believer upward.
Sometimes I feel I’m pulled in so many wrong directions/Sometimes I feel the world seducing my affections/It’s not that I don’t know the way/It’s just a heart that’s prone to stray.
20. More Power to Ya ( More Power to Ya)
The title track from what was arguably their breakout album is a sweet and stirring song of encouragement. The music gives it this feel of child-like simplicity and the lyrics echo that expression.
So be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might/Put on all His armor and fight the good fight/In all of our weakness He becomes so strong/And He gives us the power and the strength to carry on.
19. Road to Zion ( More Power to Ya)
The other ballad from their breakout album also swings in here. Also encouraging, it instead carries itself with a more haunting and sparse air. It reflects how the journey of faith can feel without wallowing in it. The lyrics stay upbeat while the music mutes the colors slightly. It’s a masterfully written and recorded song.
Sometimes it’s good to look back down/We’ve come so far, we’ve gained such ground/But joy is not in where we’ve been/Joy is Who’s waiting at the end.
18. I Am on the Rock ( Beyond Belief)
A great arena rock anthem that pumps up the spirit in a believer to stand firm in Jesus even while the world falls apart. In spite of the late 80s rock feel to the music, the lyrics feel timeless.
Everywhere I’m turning/It’s only bad news/This bomb is tickin’/And we’re getting to the end of the fuse/But I am on the Rock.
17. He Came, He Saw, He Conquered (This Means War)
If there was one topic Petra excelled at singing songs about, it was the Easter story. Not a bad thing if you’re a Christian band. This one is a solid anthem about the resurrection and one worth listening to every spring.
He came alone into the battle/He knew nobody else could face His foe/He left His throne, He left His glory/He knew nobody else could ever go/He called the bluff, He took the challenge/He came into this world to seek and save/No one could know, no one could fathom/The way to win was only through the grave.
16. No Doubt ( No Doubt)
Another title track and another encouraging song. It took hearing the partial live version from Farewell to turn me onto the tune, but since then it’s been a favorite to listen to when feeling discouraged. Again it’s simple, but it carries with it wisdom to see beyond present troubles.
There will be winters in the seasons of our soul/ With a cold and bitter wind that chills our lives/But our faith can be building a fire/That will warm us till spring time arrives.
15. God Fixation ( God Fixation)
From the amazing opening bass line that still slaps (pun intended) to the great lyrics laying out what the Christian life is to look like, this is a great song all around. The solo is somewhat underwhelming but the driving bass makes this a song worthy of jamming out to.
Rooted and grounded/He’s standing up to be counted/He’s already proved/That he will not be moved.
14. Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda (Jekyll & Hyde)
This album dropped when I was at an age of constantly wondering what to do next. Needless to say, this song drew me at the first. It has a definite Peter Furler vibe to it (he produced the album), which makes for a fun, catchy tune.
Woulda, shoulda, coulda done this and that/Don’t wanna live life with another regret/Woulda, shoulda, coulda made another choice/I can see more the older I get.
13. Lovely Lord (Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus)
The sweetest track off their second (and arguably their best) praise album. The song swells with tender emotion and devout worship to God. Knock it down a few octaves and this could easily be adapted to most worship bands today.
You are bright as the sunrise and fairest of all/Unto You all the glory will be/You are God of creation and Lord of my life/I will worship You faithfully.
12. Dance (Unseen Power)
This song goes outside the normal fare for the band, showcasing a more “testimonial” tone in the lyrics. It’s not much of a dance song musically, but it still has some great lyrical moments and musical surprises.
My feet start moving down inside my shoes/But I don’t want to settle for the beat of a lonely blues/And there’s no use dancin’ to a different drum/When I’ve seen what happens and I know what will become.
11. The Coloring Song (Never Say Die)
This lullaby-esque song conveys the gospel in such simple terms and with such a catchy melody. Even though its original style is somewhat dated, it nevertheless adds to its charm and gives it a timeless quality.
Blue is the color of a heart so cold/That will not bend when the story’s told/Of the love of God for a sinful race/Of the blood that flowed down Jesus’ face.
10. Don’t Let Your Heart Be Hardened (This Means War)
On one hand, this song is meant to be sung as encouragement to a believer to avoid growing a callous heart. On the other hand, one caught in that struggle can use it as a prayer. The synthesizer puts the ballad firmly in the ‘80s but the lyrics make it timeless.
9. Right Place ( No Doubt)
Petra didn’t always go for the fast-moving, fast-talking rock songs, but with this one they did and proved they’re quite good at it. Layering John Schlitt’s vocals give him a little extra growl, adding to the punch of the song. The frenetic pace also helps reinforce the message of clinging to Jesus even in the midst of crazy times.
When you’re sinking fast, taking water in your boat/No one to bail you out, you think it’s all she wrote…/You’re in the right place/Trusting only Him.
8. Jekyll &Hyde ( Jekyll &Hyde)
Their true final studio album found the band going out with a bang, and the title track was the opening salvo. This song also goes outside their normal fare by leaning into a darker edge while resting in the imagery of a man with two sides to him.
I have this secret that I let nobody see/It’s like a split personality/And the one I feed is the one who lives/The one I starve will be the one who gives.
7. Creed ( Beyond Belief)
A fun debate to start would be to compare who did the Apostle’s Creed better: Petra or Rich Mullins? For my money, I give it to Petra. Not only does Bob Hartman condense the creed to a 4 minute song, he turns it into a rousing anthem to remain faithful and connect Christians today to those of the past.
This truth is assured/Through the darkest ages past/Though persecuted it will last/And I will hold steadfast/To this creed.
6. Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows ( More Power to Ya)
A haunting song that carries its atmosphere with moody organs and acoustic guitar to a full rock band. The lyrics are particularly poignant, carrying Jesus’ message to the church in Laodicea from Revelation 3 to our modern day setting.
Out on the doorstep lay the masses in decay/Ignore them long enough, maybe they’ll go away/When you have so much you think you have so much to lose/You think you have no lack, when you’re really destitute.
5. Grave Robber (Not of This World)
Perhaps the best song I’ve ever heard about death, this is a tune steeped in scripture and life. Drawing on the fears and uncertainties we all face, the song also gives us the best hope possible found in Jesus’ resurrection. The track never gets old or loses its comforting touch.
Many still mourn, many still weep/For those that they love who have fallen asleep/But we have this hope, though our hearts may still ache/Just one shout from above and they all will awake.
4. Angel of Light (Never Say Die)
Arguably the first truly classic rock song they released, this track is filled with a rebellious angst angled at the world. In each line, Hartman and crew call out the devil’s tricks and the way he dupes society. The chorus before the solo is also wonderfully done and easily notches this song as one of their best.
But I know where you’re going, too bad you’re not alone/If it wasn’t for the real light I might have never known.
3. Judas Kiss ( More Power to Ya)
From the cheeky backwards-masked opening to the plodding drum beat to the classic riff to Greg X. Volz’s searing delivery, this song is one of their best for a reason. Add to it that this is one of those rare Petra songs where the message isn’t necessarily positive and you have a unique, standout track.
It must be like another thorn struck in your brow/It must be like another close friend’s broken vow/It must be like another nail right through your wrist/It must be just like/Just like Judas’ kiss.
2. This Means War (This Means War)
This album served to cement John Schlitt’s role as lead singer for the band and this track was what opened the gateway. Pounding drums from a marching band open it and Schlitt carries it the rest of the way, giving us a memorable song about why Christians are caught in a spiritual war, who they’re fighting, and why they have hope for victory.
Then came the cross – you thought you had won/You thought you had conquered God’s only Son/”So much for Jesus,” you said in jest/Then you got a visit from an unwelcome guest.
1. Beyond Belief (Beyond Belief)
The title track off their most successful album has a lot going for it: unique guitar work, a wide range for Schlitt’s vocals to play with, and lyrics that perfectly capture the journey a Christian is set on. One could argue that previous songs or even tracks that came after deal with the same subject, but “Beyond Belief” is the peak of their take on the message.
— John Underdown