Posted by: rcottrill | August 7, 2015

My God and Father, While I Stray

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Words: Charlotte Elliott (b. Mar. 18, 1789; d. Sept. 22, 1871)
Music: Hanford, by Arthur Seymour Sullivan (b. May 13, 1842; d. Nov. 22, 1900)

Wordwise Hymns (Arthur Sullivan)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Charlotte Elliott is perhaps better known for the invitation hymn, Just As I Am, used for so many years in Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades. But the present hymn, a magnificent prayer of Christian dedication, deserves a much wider use than it has had. Sir Arthur Sullivan was an outstanding composer and church musician, but he will likely be linked, more often, in the popular mind, with librettist William S. Gilbert as the creator of fourteen comic operettas (H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado, and more).

What would you say is the most significant guiding principle affecting your life day by day? We each have one–a goal or value that influences us above any other. Some of these seem worthy, others are definitely less so. Some folks live for their family, or to help others. Some pursue good health, or advancement in their job. Some like to make money and gather possessions, or focus on having a good time.

Often it’s a sudden crisis experience that reveals what the dominant and driving force in our lives actually is. For example, if you discovered your house was on fire, what would you try to save, beyond the occupants of the house. Family photo albums? The money in the safe? Your collection of DVD’s? Going back into a burning building, at great personal risk, to fetch what seems most important may say volumes about our values.

A crisis experience beyond imagining was faced by the Lord Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane. Lauded by angels, in heavenly glory, from all eternity, the Son of God came to this earth “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45), to saved lost and fallen mankind. The time had come for that. Yet, in His humanity, He shrank from what lay ahead. We can never fully comprehend what happened there in the garden, for the sinless One to have all the world’s sin charged against Him, and to face a horrific death.

In an agony of prayer to His heavenly Father, Jesus said, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). And there is the bottom line for the Lord Jesus. “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). The priority of His life was to do His Father’s will. Everything else flowed from that, and was bounded by that.

That guiding principle should be ours as well. As believers, we should daily seek to do what pleases God. David wrote, “I delight to do Your will, O my God….Teach me to do Your will” (Ps. 40:8; 143:10). And Paul prayed in Colossians that his readers would “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him” (Col. 1:9-10). As missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot once put it: “I have only one thing to do today: the will of God.”

Hymn writer Charlotte Elliot wrote a powerful hymn on that theme, About fifteen years after she wrote Just As I Am, an English magazine invited readers to submit a list of what they believed to be the best hymns. Thirty-five hundred lists were sent in, and My God and Father, While I Stray was ranked consistently in the top ten. Yet it’s largely unknown, and found only a few hymnals today.

Perhaps it’s the challenging depth of commitment to God it calls for which causes some to shy away from it. In eight pointed and penetrating stanzas, the author expresses her passion to let nothing stand in the way of her utter and complete dedication to the Lord. Think of these words, and what they represent regarding that one great guiding principle of life.

CH-1) My God and Father! while I stray
Far from my home in life’s rough way,
Oh! teach me from my heart to say,
“Thy will be done!”

CH-2) Though dark my path, and sad my lot,
Let me “be still,” and murmur not,
Or breathe the prayer divinely taught,
“Thy will be done!”

CH-4) If Thou shouldst call me to resign
What most I prize, it ne’er was mine;
I only yield Thee what was Thine;
“Thy will be done!”

CH-7) Renew my will from day to day,
Blend it with Thine, and take away
All now that makes it hard to say,
“Thy will be done!”

CH-8) Then when on earth I breathe no more
The prayer oft mixed with tears before,
I’ll sing upon a happier shore,
“Thy will be done!”

1) What is there in your life that you have a struggle submitting to the will of God?

2) Why is it a struggle? And what can you do about that?

Wordwise Hymns (Arthur Sullivan)
The Cyber Hymnal


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