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Words: George Atkins (b. Apr. 16, 1793; d. Aug. 29, 1827)
Music: Holy Manna, likely by William Moore (details unknown)
Note: George Atkins was a Methodist pastor. Not much is known of William Moore, except that he was a contemporary of Atkins. He published a book in 1825 called The Columbian Harmony, which contained this tune. It’s believed he was likely the composer. The hymn text originally had eight stanzas, including ones about praying for family members, and praying for backsliders. Today, hymn books commonly use only four stanzas.
This revival hymn from the early nineteenth century draws on several passages of Scripture. The reference to holy manna recalls God’s provision for the Israelites all their years in the wilderness. It was called “bread from heaven” (Exod. 16:35; Ps. 78:24). Pastor Atkins uses it as a symbol of the blessing of God, in this case His blessing, through the Holy Spirit, on the ministry of the Word.
CH-1) Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
Prayer in this connection is so important. The pastor himself should pray, of course, both in the preparation of his sermon, and before it is preached. The story is told of Charles Spurgeon one Sunday morning. It was time for him to make his way to the platform, but he did not appear. Finally, a deacon when to seek him. Opening the door of his study, the deacon found him, prostrate on the floor, pounding it and crying out to God, “I will not go in alone, I will not go in alone!” He craved some sense of the presence of God with him, and was determined to pray until he got it.
Others should be praying as well. Does your church follow the excellent practice of having some believers gather before the service to pray? It’s a wonderful idea. Then, it’s also possible to offer up short (silent) prayers during the service–and especially during the pastor’s sermon. Just be sure you don’t always use a shovel, but sometimes use a rake. What I mean by that is this. Don’t simply pray, “Lord, this is for her [shovel], this is for him [shovel], help them to receive it.” Also pray, “Lord, this is for me [rake, rake], help me to accept and apply it.”
CH-2) Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.
Perhaps George Atkins was ahead of his time, given that many (in fact most of our older hymns) deal mainly with men (brethren, he, him, his). But the author specifically includes women, using Miriam as an illustration. Miriam is given a prominent ministry role in Israel, after the people were delivered from bondage (cf. Mic. 6:4). Called a prophetess, she led in the music of worship, after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Exod. 15:20-21).
CH-3) Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Saviour, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
The final stanza of the hymn pleads for Christian love, and a concern for others who need God’s salvation, picturing a day of rejoicing at what is called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
“‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God’” (Rev. 19:7-9).
This will be a time of great rejoicing, as the church (the bride of Christ) is gathered to Him, redeemed, glorified and rewarded. Will manna–or something like it–be served at that time. I’m not sure. But it is mentioned earlier in Revelation (Rev. 2:17). Further, there is a startling description in one of the parables of the Lord Jesus that suggests He may actually take the role of a servant on that occasion, and “gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.” Who would not love such a Master supremely, and be humbled by the experience?
“You yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them” (Lk. 12:36-37).
CH-5) Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.
1) If this parable of Jesus is actually fulfilled at the marriage supper, how will you feel?
2) Are there ways you can support your pastor more with prayer, especially as it relates to the preaching of the Word?