Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Hymnody

Why we don’t see answers to prayer

Tim Challies recently posted some reasons why God will not answer our prayers. About the same time I was wondering about unanswered prayer and got to thinking that perhaps much of what we call unanswered prayer is really prayer that we simply don’t see answered. The reasons for this could be legion, but here’s one that stuck out to me: Many times we don’t know what we’re praying for, or what the answer will look like.

Our church recently held a ‘week of prayer.’ In one of the meetings we focused on prayers of contrition as a theme, emphasizing our absolute dependence on God for all things. In our last meeting we prayed prayers of dedication to God, committing our future plans and ministry hopes to him to do with as he sees fit. In both of these cases many prayers were offered to God, begging him to keep us humble and to demolish pride in all its subtle forms in our hearts.

That got me to thinking.

Those are wonderful and biblical things to pray! But how do we know when those prayers have been answered? Sometimes I think we expect God to answer those prayers by simply changing our hearts overnight so that we never are tempted to pride again. But that’s not a biblical expectation.

What is a more likely answer to that prayer? It’s more likely that God will bring hardships or persecution. He may allow me to fall into some sort of sin, or else have some secret sin in my heart exposed before others. It is in these types of ways that God strips us of our self-reliance and our sinful, blind desire for and pride in autonomy. Pride is too deeply ingrained in our personalities, thought processes, and decision-making capacities for us to deal with it any other way.

How can we put pride to death when we don’t know where it is?

Looking back over my life I can see that many times God has answered my prayers in ways that I have not expected. More often than not when I sincerely pray for humility and for the Lord to destroy sin in my life, that prayer is answered with suffering or the exposure of sin in my heart. The trouble is that since I wasn’t expecting this as an answer to prayer, I don’t see it as one at the time, and then I get upset and cry out, ‘Why would you let this happen to me, God?’

But it’s all grace. He gives grace in the trial, he gives grace for increased faith, he gives grace as he humbles us so that we might increasingly depend on him in love.

This is just one example, but I think it illustrates the point well. From our end prayers often seem to go unanswered. I wonder if often we are just looking for the wrong type of answer.

Just for fun, here’s an awesome hymn by John Newton that illustrates the same point:

I asked the LORD that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, his face.

‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favoured hour,
At once he’d answer my request;
And by his love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

LORD, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the LORD replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in me.”

Sing All the Verses — Part 3

This is the last installment in this series, unless I stumble across something pretty amazing. This time I want to point out that two of our most famous (and deserving so!) hymns that we’ve sung in our churches for years are missing verses. Since the hymns are so popular I won’t post all the verses, just the ones that are usually missing (how’s that for irony?). If you want to see all the words, check here and here.

And Can it Be?
(5th of 6 verses, appeared between the verse when the chains fall off
his soul and the verse that begins ‘No condemnation now I dread…’)

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Saviour in my heart.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
(Originally the 4th verse, between ‘See from his head, his hands…’
and ‘Were the whole realm…’)

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

I don’t know why these started getting left out, but who cares. The point is, we should sing them! They’re great! So if you know your ‘worship leader’ or if you lead your services… sing them! 🙂

Sing All the Verses–Part 2

Okay, honestly, who knew that what we usually sing as the Doxology has more than one verse?! It’s true. The words were written by Thomas Ken, published in the Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College, in 1674.

Ken wrote this hymn at a time when the established church believed only Scripture should be sung as hymns, with an emphasis on the Psalms. Some considered it sinful and blasphemous to write new lyrics for church music, akin to adding to the Scriptures. In that atmosphere, Ken wrote this and several other hymns for the boys at Winchester College, with strict instructions that they use them only in their rooms, for private devotions. Ironically, the last stanza has come into widespread use as the Doxology, perhaps the most frequently used piece of music in public worship. At Ken’s request, the hymn was sung at his funeral, fittingly held at sunrise.

Here are all the great words. It is a song we would all well be able to use in our morning devotions, even now, 330-some-odd years later. Enjoy!

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice. 

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

I would not wake nor rise again
And Heaven itself I would disdain,
Wert Thou not there to be enjoyed,
And I in hymns to be employed.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’tis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Above info gathered from the Cyber Hymnal.

Sing All the Verses!

I don’t know why, but for some reason over the past couple of decades it has become trendy to only sing parts of songs. It makes no sense. How can you follow any kind of flow of thought when you’re taking chunks out of the middle? You’re destroying an artist’s work and ripping the people off by not engaging their full minds in all the depth of the meanings of the songs. But I won’t go on and on about it, because Tim Challies blogged on this more ably already (see here) from some experiences he had before coming to our church.

All I’ll do here is show you one example that I just aboslutely don’t get. Most people know the song I Stand in Awe by Mark Altrogge. But here’s what blows my mind: Almost no one knows that there are two verses! Why don’t people sing the second verse? I have no idea! It’s awesome! Here are the words so you can see for yourself.

And if you lead services at your church, sing both verses! If you don’t, then tell your pastor that you should sing both verses… please! 🙂


You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom
Who can fathom the depths of Your love
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above

And I stand I stand in awe of You
I stand I stand in awe of You
Holy God to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You

You are beautiful beyond description
Yet God crushed You for my sin
In agony and deep affliction
Cut off that I might enter in
Who can grasp such tender compassion
Who can fathom this mercy so free
You are beautiful beyond description
Lamb of God who died for me

“I Stand in Awe” by Mark Altrogge. © 1986 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Ministries. From I Stand in Awe: Worship Favorites From Sovereign Grace Music. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. North American administration by Integrity Music. International administration by CopyCare International. Used by Permission.

Good Ol’ Newton

From Olney Hymns, #37

Begone unbelief, My Savior is near,
And for my relief Will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle, And he wilt perform,
With CHRIST in the vessel, I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way, Since he is my guide,
’Tis mine to obey, ’Tis his to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, And creatures all fail,
The word he has spoken Shall surely prevail.

His love in time past Forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last In trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms his good pleasure To help me quite through.

Determined to save, He watched o’er my path,
When Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death;
And can he have taught me To trust in his name,
And thus far have brought me, To put me to shame?

Why should I complain Of want or distress,
Temptation or pain? He told me no less:
The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,
Through much tribulation Must follow their LORD.

How bitter that cup, No heart can conceive,
Which he drank quite up, That sinners might live!
His way was much rougher, And darker than mine;
Did Jesus thus suffer, And shall I repine?

Since all that I meet Shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, The med’cine is food;
Though painful at present, Wilt cease before long,
And then, O! how pleasant, The conqueror’s song!

I believe in the Holy Trinity–Part 4

In the spirit of the Christmas, and in the footsteps of kerux’s post, I thought it might be nice to post a Christmas hymn I found in an old Presbyterian hymnal that I have not seen elsewhere.

The words are written by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-413AD). You can ask Dr. Haykin who he is, because I have no idea.

Either way, this is a great hymn in the Trinitarian tradition. Either way, I think it is important to realize that when we celebrate the coming of Christ, we celebrate the incarnation of God himself, and that it is a work and a revelation of the entire Trinity, and we should be all the more in awe of the whole Godhead, not just focusing on Christ alone.

“We beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father.”

Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore.

This is He Whom heav’n taught singers
Sang of old with one accord,
Whom the scriptures of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long-expected;
Let creaition praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
All dominions, bow before Him,
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore.

Thee let age and Thee let mahood,
Thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
With glad voices answering;
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And their heart its music bring,
Evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn, and chant, and high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be,
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore.

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