Posted by: rcottrill | February 14, 2011

Lord, Speak to Me

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Canonbury, by Robert Alexander Schumann (b. June. 8, 1810; d. July 29:1856)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Robert Schumann was a German composer and music critic, considered one of the greatest composers of the Romantic period. Canonbury was adapted from his composition Nachtstück, Opus 23, No. 4, published in 1839. Frances Havergal, the author of the text, was a deeply spiritual woman, and a scholar who had mastered Hebrew and Greek, as well as six or seven modern languages. In spite of her early death (at the age of 43, from peritonitis) she was an excellent athlete, a swimmer and mountain climber.

Miss Havergal originally entitled this wonderful hymn “A Worker’s Prayer,” and it was accompanied by the text, “None of us lives to himself” (Rom. 14:7), which I think she took to mean none of us can serve God or minister to others out of our own resources. (That is not Paul’s original meaning. In the context he is speaking of how each of us is accountable to God. But the sense suggested by the hymn is also true.)

Living echoes (CH-1)–what an expressive phrase! We have no message in ourselves, no power in ourselves, that can be of help to others. We are called to repeat (to “echo”) the message already given in the inspired Word of God. And what we share will be a living echo, if it comes from the Word that is “living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12), and is delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:4-5).

Throughout the seven stanzas of the hymn we get the repeated imagery of something coming from God and being passed on to others. We come as empty pitchers to a full fountain, we serve as open channels through which God’s grace and blessing can flow. Notice how this is brought out in stanza after stanza.

“Speak to me that I may speak;” as I have been sought by You, “so let me seek” (CH-1); “lead me, Lord, that I may lead;” “feed me, Lord, that I may feed” (CH-2); “strengthen me” that I may reach out a hand to rescue others (CH-3); “teach me, Lord, that I may teach” (CH-4); “O give Thine own sweet rest to me, that I may speak with soothing power” (CH-5); “O fill me with Thy fullness, Lord” that my heart may overflow with love for others (CH-6).

The prophet Isaiah says, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens me to hear as the learned” (Isa. 50:4). This idea of passing on what has been received, and of God being the source of both the message and the power to deliver it, is found in various passages of Scripture. Regarding the Lord’s Supper, Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, “I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you” (I Cor. 11:23; cf. Ps. 119:12-13; Matt. 28:19-20; Jn. 13:15; Acts 1:8; Rom. 6:13; Gal. 1:11-12; II Tim. 2:2).

I realize editors have a difficult job with deciding how much to include of some of our longer hymns. If one is going to publish a book with 500 to 800 selections (as is fairly common), something has to give. Many years ago, it was not unusual to have hymns with a dozen or more stanzas. These are often pared down to three or four. In the case of Lord, Speak to Me, many books give us only four of the seven, which is most unfortunate. Here are three stanzas sometimes omitted.

CH-2) O lead me, Lord, that I may lead
The wandering and the wavering feet;
O feed me, Lord, that I may feed
Thy hungering ones with manna sweet.

CH-3) O strengthen me, that while I stand
Firm on the rock, and strong in Thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
To wrestlers with the troubled sea.

CH-5) O give Thine own sweet rest to me,
That I may speak with soothing power
A word in season, as from Thee,
To weary ones in needful hour.

1) What are some of the things in our lives that can prevent us from being effective channels of God’s blessing to others?

2) It’s clear from her original title that Miss Havergal had Christian workers in mind–those with specifically assigned jobs. But how does her hymn relate to the average Christian, one who is not necessarily a pastor, missionary, Sunday School teacher, etc.?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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