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Words: William Tidd Matson (b. Oct. 17, 1833; d. Dec. 23, 1899)
Music: Rimington, by Francis Duckworth (b. Dec. 25, 1862; d. Aug. 16, 1941)
Note: William Matson, an English clergyman, a significant spiritual transformation in 1853–whether a conversion to Christ, or a spiritual revival. He left the Anglicans, with whom he was associated, and joined the Congregationalists, going on to serve as the pastor of several churches. He wrote a number of books, and many hymns, though few of the latter are still in use.
Historian John Julian classes his hymns “far above the average,” but he also criticizes Matson’s poetry as “somewhat lacking in lyric energy” (Dictionary of Hymnology, p. 719). William Garrett Horder, in The Hymn Lover: An Account of the Rise and Growth of English Hymnody, calls the present song, “a very good hymn of an ethical type, but with a very weak ending” (p. 296). Be that as it may, the hymn is a worthy prayer for each of us who is a follower of Christ. The Cyber Hymnal gives the date of publication as 1866.
The hymn seems to take its inspiration from appeals such as that in Psalm 86:11, which says:
“Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name [i.e. give me an undivided heart, committed to doing Your will].”
CH-1) Teach me, O Lord, Thy holy way,
And give me an obedient mind;
That in Thy service I may find
My soul’s delight from day to day.
CH-2) Guide me, O Saviour, with Thy hand,
And so control my thoughts and deeds,
That I may tread the path which leads
Right onward to the blessèd land.
Teach me (or teach us) is a frequent prayer to the Lord in the Scriptures, particularly in the Psalms. Implied in it is a humble recognition of need, and the faith to believe that God can meet the need, by His grace. Here are a few examples:
¤ Faced with the prophesied birth of a son (Samson) Manoah his father prayed, “Teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born” (Jud. 13:8)–a wonderful prayer for any prospective parents.
¤ Elihu’s suggested prayer in Job 34:22 is, “Teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.” This is similar to David’s prayer, that the Lord would show him any sin hidden within (Ps. 139:23-24).
¤ In Psalm 119, a lengthy psalm about the Word of God, the psalmist repeatedly prays that the Lord will “teach me Your statues [Your decrees or ordinances, in other words, God’s Law]” (Ps. 119: 12, 26, 33, 64, 68, 124, 135, 171). Cf. “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe Your commandments” (vs. 66).
¤ “Teach me Your paths….On You I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:4-5). “Teach me Your way” (Ps. 27:11). “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness” (Ps. 143:10).
¤ “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom [i.e. live wisely]” (Ps. 90:12). We need to be aware of how little time we have on earth, and make good use of it, investing what the Lord has given us wisely (cf. Eph. 5:15-17).
¤ “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’” (Lk. 11:1).
Put these together, and you can see the passion of a godly heart, to live to please God, to serve God, and have a life that brings honour and glory to Him. Pastor Matson’s hymn echoes many of the requests in the above prayers. This is one of those hymns that can be read meaningfully, as a simple prayer, in your daily devotions.
CH-3) Help, me, O Saviour, here to trace
The sacred footsteps Thou hast trod;
And, meekly walking with my God,
To grow in goodness, truth and grace.
CH-4) Guard me, O Lord, that I may ne’er
Forsake the right, or do the wrong;
Against temptation make me strong,
And round me spread Thy sheltering care.
CH-5) Bless me in every task, O Lord,
Begun, continued, done for Thee;
Fulfil Thy perfect work in me;
And Thine abounding grace afford.
1) Why not try praying this prayer, thinking carefully about what you’re asking for?
2) What, in your own life right now, is the most significant request made in the hymn?