Lately I’ve been thinking back to my childhood and remembering what church was like back then. It wasn’t so long ago that there were pews in churches and they weren’t built for comfort either. Every church had altars at the front that were built for comfort because you would spend time on them praying. On the back of every pew was a hymnal. The name of ours was “Hymns of Glorious Praise”.
I remember being bored out of my mind in church as a child. When I was done counting the ceiling tiles (or knots in the wooden ceiling at my grandfather’s church), I would flip open that hymnal for some reading. Mostly I would flip through to see what the oldest written hymn in there was. I can’t remember the name now, but I do know it was on page 27!
All of this thinking got me to remembering the words I read on those pages and the words of the ones we sung. They were powerful words written by great men of God. I’m not saying that today’s worship songs are not powerful or written by men of God, but there was something about the hymns that made them last so long. Think about it. “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton in 1779 yet almost everyone knows it. I can barely remember what we were singing in 1979.
So yesterday, I asked on Facebook for people to share their favorite hymn and their favorite line from it. The response I got was overwhelming. It reminded me of songs I had forgotten and brought back lots of memories. I thought I’d share some of the ones with you that were posted on my wall and either bring back some memories for you or at least let you read some powerful lyrics.
One of the favorites that was posted was “How Great Thou Art” was translated from a Swedish poem. There was one verse that stood out though. “Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider the worlds thy hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder – Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to Thee, how great Thou art.” When is the last time you looked up into the sky, looked at all of creation and just worshiped God because of the awesome display of His power? We should look at it and cry out in wonder. David did in Psalm 19.
Another one, as mentioned above, was “Amazing Grace”. If you don’t know, John Newton was a sailor and a slave trader. One day while at sea, his ship sailed into a terrible storm. The ship sprung a leak and began to sink. When he called out to God for help, a piece of cargo drifted and covered the hole in the ship which stopped the leaking. He began to read scripture for the rest of that journey and accepted Jesus as his savior. He later penned the words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch (a miserable person) like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.” If you’ve accepted Christ, that’s your story too. That’s why it resonates with all of us.
The last one I’ll share is also one of my favorites. “It is Well With My Soul” was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873. He and his family were going to Europe for a trip, but he was delayed for business purposes. He sent his wife and three daughters ahead of him. On their way, their ship caught fire and sank. His wife survived, but his three daughters died. He got a telegram from his wife that said, “Saved alone.” When he sailed to meet her and passed over the spot, he was overcome emotion and wrote, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well with my soul.'”
I’m not sure many of us can endure what he did and respond that way. In life’s most difficult circumstances, do you call out to God, rely on God or praise Him? These men did and wrote their prayers down. I think that’s also why we relate so much to these. They are prayers that we can pray and sing from deep within our souls. With that being said, I’d like to know what’s your favorite hymn and line that you relate to?