What a Friend We Have in Jesus

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Posted on 27th March 2020 under The Rectory Bulletin | Hymn Stories


A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

There is often a story behind the hymns we sing, and so it is with the popular hymn: ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’. This hymn was much used by the great American evangelist, D L Moody, but its origins are closer to home.

The author, Joseph Scriven (1819-86), was an Irishman born in County Down to prosperous parents. He earned his degree from Trinity College , Dublin in 1842 and the following year he was engaged to be married.

But on the eve of the wedding, his fiancée drowned.

Grief stricken, he emigrated to Canada and found his solace in Christ. He dedicated himself to serving those around him, often giving away his possessions to those in need and working for free. He became known as “the Good Samaritan of Port Hope.”

A decade or so later he heard that his mother was very ill. To comfort her, he penned a poem called “Pray Without Ceasing”, which is known to us as “What a Friend we have in Jesus”.

Many years later, a neighbour came across the poem whilst sitting with Scriven and asked him “who wrote these beautiful words?” “The Lord and I did it between us,” was the reply.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O 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 Saviour, 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 wilt find a solace there. 

You can watch a recording of the hymn from Songs of Praise here.

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28th March 2020

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