James Montgomery, 1771-1854

Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
Luke 18:1

Prayer is asking God to do what we cannot do ourselves. -- selected

Although this particular hymn was previously unfamiliar to me, its author James Montgomery is indeed a great contributor to English hymnody. He wrote more than 400 hymns, many of which are still in popular use today: "Stand Up and Bless The LORD", "Angels From the Realms of Glory", and more.

Though trained for the ministry, Montgomery spent his lifetime as a journalist and newspaper editor. He became widely known for his writings and poetry, yet when once asked,"Which of your poems still 'live'?" he replied,"None, sir, except a few of my hymns." His words were prophetic. It is by his hymns that Montgomery is remembered rather than by his more classic poetry.

Many have acclaimed this hymn as one of the finest definitions and descriptions of prayer to be found in short form. Such colorful metaphors as "hidden fire", "a sign", "a falling tear", "an upward glance" describe in poetic language the mysterious meaning of prayer--understood by experience, yet often difficult to express in words. Perhaps those terms will lead you to a new appreciation for the "soul's sincere desire".

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains
That reach The Majesty on High.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters Heav’n with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
When turning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, “Behold, he prays!”

The saints in prayer appear as one
In word, in deed, and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.

No prayer is made by man alone
The Holy Spirit pleads,
And Jesus, on th’eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou by Whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way,
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray.

*For Today*: Matthew 6:5-8; Luke 11:1-4; Colossians 4:2 & 12; I Thessalonians 5:17

Reflect on the importance of prayer in your daily life, then remember its importance in Jesus' daily earthly life.

Music url: The Cyber Hymnal

Taken from Amazing Grace -- 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions © Copyright 1990 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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