Posted by: rcottrill | June 4, 2018

Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee

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Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Naomi, by Hans G. Nägeli (b. May 26, 1773; d. Dec. 26, 1836)

Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Wesley called the present hymn “A Prayer for Faith”–referring to saving faith. And since reaching out to God indicates a certain level of faith and hope, it’s perhaps like the man in Scripture who cries, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24).

The numbers vary greatly, depending on how the count is made, but beggars are a fact of life, particularly in the larger cities of the world. One writer describes Calcutta as “a city of gods and beggars. And it’s not just a problem “over there.” While Jakarta has approximately twenty-eight thousand of them, it’s claimed New York City has sixty thousand.

Around the globe there are millions living on the streets, daily looking for a handout of one kind or another. The term panhandler is sometimes used, suggesting that the arm reaching out for something resembles the handle of a pot. (Rather a demeaning term.) Many countries have established laws against begging. In Canada, the Safe Streets Act is designed at least to protect pedestrians from aggressive and abusive begging.

It’s common for some to be critical, blaming the beggars they see for sheer laziness, an unwillingness to get a job and work for their livelihood. But the issues involved are more complex than that, and not easily resolved. Some Christian ministries seek to help those living on the streets, providing food and shelter. But whether we give something to those begging or not, they deserve to be treated with respect, as individuals. God loves them, and the Lord Jesus died to save the down-and-outers as well as the up-and-outers.

And consider that believers too are often hoping for a handout–or a hand up–from the Lord (something He invites, Phil. 4:6, 19). The words of the late author and British Bible teacher Guy King are open to misinterpretation, but they are striking. He once wrote of Christians, “What lucky beggars we are!”

Especially in the Old Testament, we read of the custom for those who are praying to raise their hands to God. It was a symbolic way of showing the attitude of the heart, usually regarding one of two things: either a desire to give praise to God, or to receive a blessing or help from God.

There is no one posture for prayer mandated by Scripture. Whether we sit, stand or kneel, whether we fold our hands or raise them, is not a magic formula guaranteeing God will hear us. But as long as it’s not merely an empty ritual, there’s meaning in raising the hands as though offering up to God our gift of praise and thanksgiving. Or lifting empty hands to Him, asking Him to fill them with His loving provision.

Prayers to give praise:
“Solomon stood…and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: ‘Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You’” (I Kgs. 8:22-23). “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name” (Ps. 63:3-4). “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless [or praise] the Lord” (Ps. 134:2).

Prayers to receive God’s blessing or help:
“Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. Do not take me away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 28:2-3). “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Ps. 141:1-2).

It’s in the latter sense that hymn writer Charles Wesley published a song in 1741 called Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee. He pictures the sinner seeking God’s grace and forgiveness, and lifting his hands symbolically to receive it.

CH-1) Father, I stretch my hands to Thee,
No other help I know;
If Thou withdraw Thyself from me,
Ah! whither shall I go?

CH-2) What did Thine only Son endure,
Before I drew my breath?
What pain, what labour, to secure
My soul from endless death!

CH-5) Author of faith, to Thee I lift
My weary, longing eyes:
O let me now receive that gift!
My soul without it dies!

CH-6) The worst of sinners would rejoice,
Could they but see Thy face:
O let me hear Thy quickening voice,
And taste Thy pardoning grace.

1) What do you do when you come upon a beggar in the street?

2) Is there anything your church could do to minister to those living in the streets?

Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal


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