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Draw near: To whom do we pray?

Lynne Baab • Tuesday September 27 2022

Draw near: To whom do we pray?

Recently I’ve been paying attention to the words of praise songs and hymns to notice to whom they are addressed. Some follow the pattern of the hymn “Praise my Soul the King of Heaven” or the praise song “10,000 Reasons” (“Bless the Lord, O my soul, worship his holy name”). This pattern, common in the psalms, calls my soul to engage in prayer. Some hymns and praise songs are descriptive, like “Amazing Grace” or “Mighty to Save” (“Savior, he can move the mountains”). Perhaps we could say they are also addressing my inner being, reminding me of who God is and what God has done.

Consider the words to “Holy, Holy, Holy”: “Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee . . . all the saints adore thee.” That hymn addresses God the Trinity, one God in three persons. Many hymns address God directly. In the purest sense, that’s what I call prayer.

Other hymns and praise songs address one person of the Trinity at a time, and I’ll focus on a few of those in the next few weeks. Here’s a hymn that addresses each person of the Trinity in a separate verse. As you read, pay attention to the names and attributes of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Also notice what the hymn writer is asking for from each person of the Trinity. 

Come, thou almighty King,
help us thy name to sing;
help us to praise.
Father all-glorious,
o'er all victorious,
come and reign over us,
Ancient of Days.

Come, thou incarnate Word,
gird on thy mighty sword;
our prayer attend.
Come and thy people bless,
and give thy Word success,
and let thy righteousness
on us descend.

Come, holy Comforter,
thy sacred witness bear
in this glad hour!
Thou, who almighty art,
now rule in ev'ry heart,
and ne'er from us depart,
Spirit of pow'r.

To thee, great One in Three,
eternal praises be
hence evermore!
Thy sov'reign majesty
may we in glory see,
and to eternity
love and adore.

I’d love to be able to tell you about the author of that hymn, but no one knows for sure. It first appeared in hymnbooks in the early to mid-1700s. Later, in a Methodist hymnal, it was attributed to Charles Wesley, but scholars now think that’s an error. Whoever wrote that beautiful poetry gave us a vivid example of a prayer to each person of the Trinity, and then to all three persons together. (You can listen to it here: a mellow traditional version and a contemporary version with a new refrain.)

I invite you to ponder some questions:

  • To whom do you most often pray?
  • What names do you or would you enjoy using for each person of the Trinity in prayer?
  • What would you thank each person of the Trinity for?
  • What would you ask for from each person of the Trinity?
  • How might your prayers expand if you prayed to each person of the Trinity?

(Next week: praying to Jesus for perseverance. Illustration by Dave Baab: St. Kilda Beach, Dunedin, New Zealand. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up below under “subscribe.”)

I preached a week ago about the Sabbath. The recording is here. The first scripture reading is at 40:35, and I come on at 41:25.

Previous posts that focus on hymns:

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