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Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18,1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Ratisbon, by Johann Gottlob Werner (b. Oct. 4, 1777; d. July 19, 1822)
Note: Prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley wrote this prayer hymn seeking, at the start of each new day, the illuminating presence of Christ. It was greatly admired by hymnist James Montgomery (who gave us Angels from the Realms of Glory). He called it “one of Charles Wesley’s loveliest progeny.”
As to the tune, Ratisbon is used frequently with the hymn, though the Cyber Hymnal lists five other possibilities. The metre of the hymn also fits several more common tunes: Dix, used with the carol As with Gladness Men of Old, and Toplady, used with Rock of Ages. And if the last two notes in lines 2 and 4 are tied (sung to one syllable), Grosser Gott, used with Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, also works.
A minor point. I puzzled for awhile as to how the second line of stanza two fit the metre. It seemed too short. After checking early versions of the hymn, and finding no difference, I finally realized the problem was my own usual pronunciation of the word “unaccompanied” as unaccomp’nied. (Maybe it’s a Canadian thing!)
For many years, ABC Television’s sports anthology, Wide World of Sports, began with an announcer intoning dramatically “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” Those who watched the program witnessed memorable athletic contests illustrating both.
Though it’s common to all fields of endeavour, athletes in particular must learn to put the past behind them quickly and make a new start. A triumphant moment must not lead to complacency and a lack of attention to next time. Nor can painful failure be allowed to enshrine bitter discouragement and an attitude of chronic defeatism. The hockey goal tender who lets in a bad goal can’t dwell on that for the rest of the game. He must put it behind him and focus on what is happening in the present. The batter who strikes out in baseball must be ready to focus on his next at bat.
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can,” said tennis great Arthur Ashe. That’s wise counsel in all kinds of things. “Every day is a new opportunity,” said baseball pitcher Bob Feller. Author and motivational speaker Dale Carnegie wrote about living life in “day-tight compartments.” Don’t let the past have undue influence on the present. That can be applied to living the Christian life too (cf. Phil. 3:13).
If we dwell on our past successes it can foster spiritual pride, blindness to our weaknesses, and a critical spirit toward others. Gratitude to God for His blessings may be missing too. On the other hand, we can wring our hands at past failures, and soon find ourselves knee-deep in discouragement. When that happens, we may look around for others to blame, instead of taking responsibility for our actions. Or we may simply quit trying and give up.
Each day is a fresh treasure to be invested, and God provides the means to make a new start. There is cleansing for past sins, when we confess them to Him (I Jn. 1:9). There is the study of the Scriptures to strengthen and equip us (II Tim. 3:16-17), and the promised presence of the Lord to guide and protect us (Matt. 28:20). The Bible repeatedly assures of Christ as the One whose presence lights our way.
Isaiah speaks of Christ’s future coming as “a light to the Gentiles” (Isa. 49:6), and Malachi describes Him as “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2; cf. Rev. 22:16). As the birth of the Saviour neared, Zechariah said prophetically:
“Through the tender mercy of our God…the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk. 1:78-79).
The Lord Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12; cf. II Tim. 1:10).
Wesley’s song, from 1740, is an earnest morning prayer. Drawing on the Scriptures quoted above, he asks, as he begins the day, for Christ to warm his heart with joy, and scatter shadows of doubt.
CH-1) Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.
CH-2) Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by Thee;
Joyless is the day’s return
Till Thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
CH-3) Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, Radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more Thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.
1) What are the common subjects of your morning prayers?
2) What practical effect would a sincere prayer like Wesley’s have on your day?