I asked the Lord that I might grow

Newton

The great Anglican hymn-writer John Newton is most famous for 'Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound', reflecting on his conversion to true faith. But in another, lesser known hymn, he muses powerfully on a theme of the Christian life which is more familiar to many of us: our prayers and God's unexpected, sometimes unwanted answers.

The hymn begins with an optimistic, solid prayer:
 

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and ev’ry grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.


But the second stanza reveals that the answer to that prayer was not as easy as Newton had hoped it would be:


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.


After speaking more of the sufferings that ensued, Newton imagines the Lord's answer to his prayer:

 

"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 mayst seek thy all in me."


Newton underwent deep suffering, but somehow saw the kindness of the Lord in it, and even the answers to his previous prayers. And that's why this is one of my favourite hymns: Newton applied the theology he saw in the Bible with humility and complete confidence in the goodness and power of God.

You can listen to the whole song with a great contemporary tune here.
 

Paul Sutton, 07/03/2016

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