Musically "Like a Prayer" is a pop rock song that, while incorporating sexual undertones, contains gospel themes. This was achieved by the addition of a gospel choir, whose voice heightened the song's spiritual nature, while rock guitar sounds kept it dark and mysterious. The choir was conducted by Andraé Crouch, with Bruce Gaitsch and Leonard among other main musicians. The lyrics of the song were inspired by Madonna's own Catholic upbringing, and was used as a metaphor for sexual intercourse, containing ambiguous innuendos referring to fellatio and orgasm. "Like a Prayer" received widespread acclaim from music critics, who praised Madonna's skilled songwriting and improved vocals. It gave her seventh number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. It also reached peak position in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom, among others, and the top-five in the rest of the musical markets.
"Like a Prayer" is more memorable for its accompanying music video which led to a huge uproar after its release. Directed by Mary Lambert, the video features Madonna as a woman who witnessed a murder and fled to church for safety. The clip incorporates Catholic symbols such as stigmata and burning crosses, and a dream about making love to a saint. Critically appreciated, the Vatican condemned the music video after its release, while family and religious groups protested its broadcast. The song was featured in a television advertisement for soft drink manufacturer Pepsi, which was later removed from broadcast, following the protests surrounding the music video, and the boycott of Pepsi products. Madonna's contract with Pepsi was subsequently canceled, though she was allowed to retain her initial fee. "Like a Prayer" is listed as one of the most notable and important videos of all-time, topping a number of video countdowns and critic lists.
The song has been featured on three of Madonna's concert tours, most recently on the Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008 � 09, and was also performed at charity events such as Live 8 and Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief. "Like a Prayer" has been covered by a number of artists, including Mad'House, whose version peaked atop the charts in Austria, Germany and Ireland. It was also featured on American television show Glee, in an episode themed around Madonna. "Like a Prayer" is noted for its profound effect on society, due to the mayhem surrounding the music video, and the different interpretations of its content, which has led to many discussions among music and film scholars. Alongside its respective album, "Like a Prayer" has been marked as a turning point in Madonna's career, as she began to be viewed as an efficient businesswoman, someone who knew how to sell a concept.