Thursday, February 2, 2017

It Isn’t About Friendship

(submitted by Kerry Patton)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Philippians 4:6
Have You Heard This Song?
I bet you have.  Like many traditional hymns, it isn’t in frequently sung anymore, but if you’ve been in church over the last fifteen years, you’ve most likely heard it:

What a friend we have in Jesus.  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit.  Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged.  Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness.  Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge.  Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?  Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee.  Thou wild find a solace there.

These words, written by Joseph M. Scriven, 1820-1886, were originally not a hymn, but a poem.  They had, perhaps been born out of two devastating losses that he had endured.  At the age of 25, Joseph had fallen in love and was engaged to be married to a young woman, when the day before they were to be wed, she died in a tragic drowning.  Sometime later, Scriven was working as a teacher in Canada and had fallen in love with a relative of one of his students.  Again, Joseph’s hopes and dreams were destroyed as this fiancé fell ill and died before they could be married.
He had lost not one but two fiancés to death before they could be married.  About the time of the death of his second fiancé, Eliza Roche, Scriven received word that his own mother had taken ill.  Unable to return to Ireland to be with her, he wrote a letter of encouragement to his mother and included a poem he had written: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to comfort her.  It was not until some 30 years later that a collection of Scriven’s poems was published, and thereafter his poem “What a Friend…” was put to music and became the hymn we know today. 
In this context, I better understood how drawing from his own pain and loses, Scriven desired to extend to others the help and hope that he had experienced in Jesus…a friend indeed in very difficult times.  I think though, I would rather the title have been “Prayer Helps in Difficult Times” or even “Take it to the Lord in Prayer”.  Nevertheless, while meditating upon the words of the poem/hymn, we realize it is for us a solid encouragement for each of us to awaken to the fact that we have a direct pipeline of communication to the power of God through life’s most difficult times.  Indeed, what a friend we have in Jesus through prayer…so let’s get to praying, no matter what the circumstance!


Father God, help us always to come to you in prayer.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus now lives and makes intercession for us…He prays for us all the time! Stir us up, O God to bring our every need, our every concern, our every hope for ourselves and others, to the Lord in prayer.   In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Devotional Archive