Posted by: rcottrill | August 11, 2017

I Do Not Ask, O Lord

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Words: Adelaide Anne Procter (b. Oct. 30, 1825; d. Feb. 2, 1864)
Music: Orono, by Karl Pomeroy Harrington (b. June 13, 1861; d. Nov. 14, 1953)

Wordwise Hymns (Procter’s song The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Though her work is little known today, Adelaide Procter was one of the most popular writers in England in her day. A friend of Charles Dickens, and the favourite poet of Queen Victoria, her works outsold those of any contemporary poet other than Tennyson.

Many well known authors of the day were family friends and visited in the Procter home. As for Adelaide, she was already creating her own poems before she could read or write. When a little girl, she carried around a small book, as a child would carry a doll, and when she thought of some lines of verse, her mother would write them down for her in the book.

Dickens published many of the things she wrote, and he commented about her:

“When she was quite a young child, she learnt with facility several of the [mathematical] problems of Euclid. As she grew older, she acquired the French, Italian, and German languages [as well as skill in] piano [and] drawing.”

Adelaide Procter never married, though she was engaged for a time. But in the area of charitable works her passion grew and never diminished. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor, the homeless, and the unemployed. She visited the sick and taught the unschooled. An early feminist, she also addressed the particular needs of women.

To quote Charles Dickens again: “Swift to sympathize, and eager to relieve, she wrought at such designs with a flushed earnestness that disregarded season, weather, time of day or night, food [or] rest. One of her poems shows us her compassionate vision.

In that very street, at that same hour,
In the bitter air and drifting sleet,
Crouching in a doorway was a mother,
With her children shuddering at her feet.

Some of Procter’s poems have been set to music. One of these is The Lost Chord, a song recorded by many, including the great Enrico Caruso, who sang it at a benefit concert for the rescued victims of the Titanic’s sinking. It’s not a true hymn, but the song shows the unique power of music to inspire and uplift the soul.

Though Miss Procter was a Roman Catholic, her poetry and hymns deal with themes that are shared by Protestants too, and are found in many hymnals. One of these is I Do Not Ask, O Lord. It deals with the call to Christian service, and with a rejection of the easy road. That is reflected in the words of the Lord Jesus who said:

“If anyone desires to come after Me [be my disciple], let him deny himself [i.e. reject the demands of Self, in selfishness and self-will], and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).

Living for Christ and serving Him is not how we earn eternal salvation. That’s a gift of God’s grace, received through faith in the Saviour who paid our debt of sin at Calvary (Eph. 2:8-9). The life of service comes afterward, as our response to God’s grace. “Those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8).

And being a servant of Christ will require sacrifice. Against us there’s the opposition of a godless world, and of spirits of darkness. There’s also weariness and discouragement along the way. For some, being Christ’s follower even means the extremity of a martyr’s death. The Lord said of Paul, “He is a chosen vessel of mind….I will show him how many things he must suffer for my sake” (Acts 9:15-16). And suffer he did (II Cor. 11:23-28).

It’s with an understanding of these things that Adelaide Procter states her own life’s priorities in her hymn.

CH-1) I do not ask, O Lord, that life may be
A pleasant road;
I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me
Aught of its load.

CH-2) I do not ask that flowers should always spring
Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
Of things too sweet.

CH-5) I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see;
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.

Through her ceaseless toil on behalf of others, work that took her into dark and vermin infested places, the author contracted tuberculosis. She was bedridden for over a year, and finally died at the age of thirty-eight. Facing eternity with a smile, her last words were, “It has come at last.”

1) Who do you know personally, who has made great sacrifices to serve the Lord?

2) What does Paul mean when he says, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21)?

Wordwise Hymns (Procter’s song The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. I’m not sure why this site has not taken off. It is wonderful. I know it is difficult for me to answer who I have known and if taking up the cross is life and to die is gain. But my heart is very much in tune with suffering and the rewards that Jesus places all along the way,

    • Thanks for the encouragement. As for the success of the site, we make haste slowly. I’ve had more than three quarters of a million visitors from about two hundred countries of the world. The Lord has enabled me to be a help and encouragement to many I’ll never likely meet this side of heaven. For that I praise Him.

      • Wow that is amazing and Praise Jesus. You are right. He uses us in perfect timing with His will. Meeting people in heaven is very hopeful to me also.


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