Posted by: rcottrill | September 4, 2013

Fill Thou My Life

Words: Horatius Bonar (b. Dec. 19, 1808; d. July 31, 1889)
Music: Richmond (or Haweis), by Thomas Haweis (b. Jan. 1, 1734; d. Feb. 11, 1820)

Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This 1866 text by Dr. Bonar is a great hymn–one of our finest prayer hymns. But I suspect it’s not well known. I encourage you to do your part to remedy that. The original was called “Life’s Praise,” and consisted of twelve four-line stanzas. These are commonly combined into eight-line stanzas, with some of the author’s lines omitted. But what remains suits the purpose admirably. I encourage you to go to the Cyber Hymnal and read all the stanzas.

As to the tune, often Ellacombe seems to be used (which you’ll commonly find with Isaac Watts’s I Sing the Mighty Power of God). It works fine, but personally prefer one that is a bit more meditative. Richmond is much better, though it may be new to some. (You can hear it on the Cyber Hymnal.) Or you might try Cleansing Fountain, the melody usually accompanying William Cowper’s There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”

To begin this brief study, I’d like to say something about a significant word that is found several times in the hymn, the word “fill.” Both in the Old Testament’s original Hebrew, and in the New Testament’s Greek, the words most often used for the  word “fill” (mawlay in Hebrew, pletho in Greek) also mean to accomplish or fulfil.

Think of that for a moment. Fill and fulfil. It points to the accomplishment of a predetermined purpose. So when the New Testament speaks of the filling of the Spirit (e.g. Acts 2:4; Eph. 5:18), it is indicating not simply the passive occupying of a space, but it’s telling us that the Spirit of God is actively at work fulfilling the will of God in us.

Sometimes the word is actually translated “fulfil” (NKJV)–for example Paul says to young Timothy, “Fulfil your ministry” (II Tim. 4:5). But many times we are left to supply that thought and connotation, as we are in Romans 15:13.

“May the God of hope fill you [and fulfil His purpose in you] with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

You can likely see where I’m heading with this. When our earnest prayer is, in Bonar’s words, that God fill our lives with praise, we are calling upon Him to fulfil what is perhaps the primary purpose of our being, “that we…should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12), “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:5-6).

Fittingly, then, we should pray, with the psalmist:

“Let my mouth be filled [fulfilling Your purpose] with Your praise and with Your glory all the day” (Ps. 71:8).

And that is the prayer Horatius Bonar’s wonderful hymn puts in our mouths. Not only that we’ll utter words of praise, but that entire being, and all our lives will reflect praise and glory to God.

CH-1) Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy being and Thy ways.
Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e’en the praising heart
I ask, but for a life made up
Of praise in every part!

CH-3) Fill every part of me with praise;
Let all my being speak
Of Thee and of Thy love, O Lord,
Poor though I be, and weak.
So shalt Thou, Lord, from me, e’en me,
Receive the glory due;
And so shall I begin on earth
The song forever new.

1) What will a life such as this hymn describes look like, in practical terms?

2) What will a Christian life be like that lacks this “fulfilling” praise?

Wordwise Hymns (Horatius Bonar born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal


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