Posted by: rcottrill | December 5, 2016

Hear My Prayer, O Heavenly Father

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Words: Harriet Parr (b. Jan. 31, 1828; d. Feb. 18, 1900)
Music: Springhill, by William Flavel Hurndall (b. _____, 1830; d. _____, 1888)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: If you wish to use this hymn and the tune is not known, try Wycliff, by John Stainer (used in some hymnals with All for Jesus), or Evening Prayer, by George Stebbins (used with Saviour, Breathe an Evening Blessing).

There are some things that are appropriate on one occasion, but not on another. To yell, “Fire!” in a crowded building, just for the fun of seeing people panic and run in all directions, may get you thrown in jail. But to yell, “Fire!” as a warning to others, when there is indeed a fire, could win you a medal.

On the other hand, one of things that would seem to fit all occasions is prayer. You can pray, sitting comfortably in your favourite chair at home. Children at bedtime can pray. Drivers can pray in the car, as they travel–providing they keep their eyes open! Labourers can pray on the job, patients can pray in the hospital, prisoners can pray in a jail, and shipwrecked travelers on the open ocean can pray. Anywhere and everywhere, it’s a good thing to look to God, in faith.

Missionaries Paul and Silas prayed in a Roman prison (Acts 16:25). And one of the most unusual venues for prayer is found in the book of Jonah. The prophet Jonah reached out to God in prayer from the belly of the great sea monster that had swallowed him. “Salvation is of the Lord [deliverance comes from God],” he said (Jon. 2:9)–which is, incidentally a major theme of the Bible. Jonah could say, with the psalmist, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord (Ps. 130. 1). And so can we.

From 1850 to 1859, Charles Dickens published a weekly magazine called Household Words, containing stories by himself and many other authors. One of those whose stories he used three times was the popular Victorian novelist Harriet Parr (1828-1900). The Christmas 1856 edition of the periodical contained Parr’s story The Wreck of the Golden Mary. And it’s this tale that gave us the only hymn Miss Parr ever wrote–a hymn about prayer.

In the story, the Golden Mary set sail on a voyage to California, but struck an iceberg and soon went down. Passengers took to the life boats, and spent several days floating on the frigid sea, until they were rescued. To fill the time of anxious waiting, they each told stories about themselves and their experiences.

One of them, a young man named Dick Tarrant, reminisced about his childhood. “There’s a child’s hymn,” he said, “I and Tom used to say at my mother’s knee, when we were little ones….If I were ever afraid, as boys will be after reading a good ghost story, I would keep on saying it till I fell asleep….It is as clear in my mind at this minute as if my mother was here listening to me. When the others asked to hear the hymn, he shared it with them.

Three years after its publication in the story about the Golden Mary, the fictional Tom’s remembered hymn was included in a hymnal. Like the hymn Jesus Loves Me, it first appeared in a make believe story, and since its worth was recognized it has appeared in many hymn books since.

Sometimes it’s rendered as “Hear our prayer, O heavenly Father…” though I think the singular pronoun “my” makes the hymn stronger because it’s more direct and personal. We are each one to “Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isa. 55:6).

In any event, here is some of Harriet Parr’s 1856 hymn.

CH-1) Hear my prayer, O heavenly Father,
Ere I lay me down to sleep;
Bid Thine angels, pure and holy,
Round my bed their vigil keep.

CH-2) Great my sins are, but Thy mercy
Far outweighs them every one;
Down before the cross I cast them,
Trusting in Thy help alone.

CH-4) None shall measure out Thy patience,
By the span of human thought;
None shall bound the tender mercies
Which Thy holy Son has wrought.

CH-5) Pardon all my past transgressions,
Give me strength for days to come,
Guide and guard me with Thy blessing,
Till Thine angels bid me home.

1) Where is the most unusual place, or what is the most unusual circumstance, in which you have prayed?

2) What do you think the Bible means when it says, “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17)?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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