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.
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 Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in
In His arms Hell take and shield you; you will find a solace
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion
"What a Friend We
Have in Jesus" has long been associated with the United States of
America. This is probably due in part to the fact that this country
has a reputation for being the most generous nation in the world.
After World War II, the United States and its people helped rebuild
the very nations that attacked us. When countries-even those who were
enemies of the United States-have experienced great national disasters
such as earthquakes, floods, or famine, Americans have always been
among the first to respond with aid. In Christian circles it may be
the American missionaries who are the best known of the foreigners who
go into the most remote parts of the Third World to bring help and
Though many in the U.S. judge the country, its government, and its
people as not coming close to the ideals set in motion by Christ, most
of the world's people are still amazed by America's dynamic rush to
help "the least of these." In hundreds of millions of minds, the U.S.
has traditionally been viewed as a Christian country because of the
compassion it has shown to those in need. So for many of those whose
lives have been saved or altered by America's outreach and generosity,
"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is the song that best defines their
view of this country. Yet this old hymn was not written by an
American; rather, it was composed in Canada by a man who was born in
One hundred and fifty years ago, two businessmen stood on a frigid
Port Hope, Ontario, street corner as snow spit from a gray sky. In
the midst of that bitterly cold day, a little man carrying a saw
walked by. After the two friends watched the woodcutter pass, one of
them observed, "Now there is a man happy with his lot in life. I wish
I could know his joy!"
"He seems to be happy, all right," the other agreed. Then he added,
"I know he is a very hardworking, honest man."
"If he is such a happy worker and honest too," the first businessman
responded, "then maybe I should run after him and hire him to cut some
wood for me. I am going to need some more to make it through the long
"Oh," came the laughing reply, "he would not work for you."
"And why not?" demanded the first man. "I would pay him a fair wage!"
"It's not that at all. You see, Joseph Scriven only cuts wood for
people who cannot afford to pay anyone to cut it for them, or for
those who cannot cut it for themselves. Scriven gives his work to the
people in need and takes nothing for himself."
The man who exemplified Christian charity was born in Ireland in
1819. He did not have a life so charmed that faith came easily. In
fact the woodcutter with the bright smile and gentle manner had
suffered more heartache and woe than would hit most families in three
generations. The son of a captain in the British Royal Marines,
Joseph received a university degree from London's Trinity College in
1844. A man of great faith and determination, he quickly established
himself as a teacher, fell in love, and made plans to settle in his
hometown. Then tragedy struck. The day before his wedding, his
Overcome with grief, Scriven left Ireland to start a new life in
Canada. He taught school in Woodstock and Brantford before
establishing a home in Rice Lake. It was there he met and fell in
love with Eliza Rice. Just weeks before she was to become Scriven's
bride, she suddenly grew sick. Though the best doctors from across
the area were called in, nothing they did seemed to help. In a matter
of weeks, Eliza died. A shattered Scriven turned to the only thing
that had anchored him during his life-his faith. Through prayer and
Bible study he somehow found not just solace but a mission. The
twenty-five-year-old man decided to take to heart Jesus' "Sermon on
the Mount." He sold all his earthly possessions and vowed to give his
life to the physically handicapped and financially destitute. It was
a vow he never broke.
Ten years later Scriven received news that his mother had become very
ill. The man who had taken a vow of poverty did not have the funds to
go home and help care for the woman who had given him birth.
Heartsick, feeling a need to reach out to her, Scriven first turned to
prayer and then to words. In a letter to his mother, this friend of
the friendless wrote the story of his life in three short verses he
called "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Scriven who later said, "The
Lord and I wrote the song together," shared the poem with a few
acquaintances. One of them took copies to a music publisher. Within
two years the little poem of inspiration had been published and
coupled to a tune written by an American lawyer, Charles Converse.
"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" might have remained as obscure as
Joseph Scriven if it had not been for the American evangelist Dwight
L. Moody. Moody came across the song some two decades after it was
written and believed it to be the most touching hymn he had ever
heard. It was Moody, through his meetings, teachings, and books, who
gave the song a national platform and probably created the impression
that "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" had been written in the United
In the late 1800s American missionaries took the hymn to the four
corners of the globe. "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" was one of the
first American songs learned by many of those touched by these
missionaries' work. Because of missionaries the song became so
associated with the United States and its people that by the turn of
the century many Eastern European immigrants sang "What a Friend" as
they arrived at Ellis Island. Many of these potential Americans did
not understand a single word of English, but in their hearts they
believed the United States was a place where Jesus was everyone's
The same thoughts and inspiration that Joseph Scriven wanted to give
his sick mother in 1855, the idea that missionaries passed along in
foreign lands for generations, and the hope that immigrants clung to
as they arrived in the United States were adopted by millions of
Christians during World War I and World War II. "What a Friend We
Have in Jesus" was usually sung in American churches on the Sunday
morning before a church member left for missionary service. This
song, along with "Amazing Grace," was also the most common hymn played
if that same man was lost in combat. Thus for tens of millions of
Americans, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" became the spiritual
reinforcement that got them through the most trying times of their
lives. In the process the hymn had somehow grown beyond the
autobiographical testimony of an Irishman, whose life had seen little
but trouble and sacrifice, and into an anthem whose message was
universal in moments of insecurity and doubt.
Ironically, Joseph Scriven drowned in a Canadian lake in 1886. While
he did realize that the poem meant only for his mother's eyes had
become meaningful to others, the man with the giving spirit did not
live long enough to see "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" taken to
every corner of the globe. Yet Scriven, who spent fifty years cutting
wood and giving all he had to "the least of these," would have surely
been pleased to know that his life's message, written in a poem, has
inspired so many for so long.
Proverbs 18:34 - A
man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a
friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
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