My apologies for the hiatus that this “Singalong Sundays” has taken. The Christmas holidays was a busy one, along with a busy time post-Christmas. I’ve been trying to read more, and thus I have not been able to devote enough time to writing about hymns and worship songs.
Blogger Justin Taylor recently posted about John Newton and why God almost drove Newton to despair. Taylor posted this old hymn from Newton, titled, “I Asked the Lord“. I remembered that I had this on the Indelible Grace live The Hymn Sing album and so I went back listened to the explanation-introduction of the hymn again, as well as the hymn itself. And boy… is it a convicting hymn that honestly addresses human struggles and despair.
Newton in the preface of the hymnbook, writing of the purpose of it was in part because of his friendship with hymnwriter William Cowper:
A desire of promoting the faith and comfort of sincere christians, though the principal, was not the only motive to this undertaking. It was likewise intended as a monument, to perpetuate the remembrance of an intimate and endeared friendship [that is, Cowper’s friendship]. With this pleasing view I entered upon my part, which would have been smaller than it is, and the book would have appeared much sooner, and in a very different form, if the wise, though mysterious providence of GOD, had not seen fit to cross my wishes. We had not proceeded far upon our proposed plan, before my dear friend was prevented, by a long and affecting indisposition, from affording me any farther assistance. My grief and disappointment were great; I hung my harp upon the willows, and for some time thought myself determined to proceed no farther without him [Cowper].
Indeed, the path through struggle and despair is through faith in Christ, faith in our Lord that is often accompanied by heartache and tears.
Listen to Indelible Grace‘s introduction to this hymn:
And here’s the hymn itself:
I Asked the Lord
1. I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face
2. Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair
3. I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest
4. Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part
5. Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low *
6. Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”
7. “These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”
*The last line of the original verse 5 reads, “Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.” I reckon most of us do not understand the old English of God blasting my gourds, so the edit into “Cast out my feelings, laid me low” is helpful.