PRAYER IS THE SOUL’S SINCERE DESIRE
James Montgomery, 1771–1854
Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. (Luke 18:1 KJV)
Living a life without prayer is like building a house without nails.
Prayer is releasing the energies of God. For prayer is asking God to do what we cannot do ourselves.
Except for Charles Wesley or Isaac Watts, no writer has made a greater contribution to English hymnody than the author of this text, James Montgomery. He wrote more than 400 hymns, many of which are still in popular use: “Stand Up and Bless the Lord,” “Angel From the Realms of Glory,” “In the Hour of Trial,” and “According to Thy Gracious Word.”
Though trained for the ministry, Montgomery spent his lifetime as a journalist and newspaper editor. He became widely known for his writings and poetry, yet when once asked, “Which of your poems will live?” he replied, “None, sir, except a few of my hymns.” His words were prophetic. It is by his hymns that Montgomery is remembered, rather than by his more classic poetry.
Many have acclaimed this hymn as one of the finest definitions and descriptions of prayer to be found in short form. Such colorful metaphors as “hidden fire,” “a sign,” “a falling tear,” “an upward glance,” “vital breath,” and “native air” describe in poetic language the mystic meaning of prayer—understood by experience, yet often difficult to express in words. Perhaps those terms will lead you to a new appreciation for the “soul’s sincere desire.”
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed, the motion of a hidden fire that trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear, the upward glancing of an eye when none but God is near.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try; prayer, the sublimest strains that reach the Majesty on high.
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air; his watchword at the gates of death: He enters heav’n with prayer.
O Thou by whom we come to God, the Life, the Truth, the Way! The path of prayer Thyself hast trod: Lord, teach us how to pray!
For Today: Matthew 6:5–8; Luke 11:1–4; Colossians 4:2, 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Reflect on the importance of prayer in your daily life. Determine to make an even greater use of this spiritual power throughout the day. Use this musical reminder—
Osbeck, K. W.
- But when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber: and when thou hast shut thy door, pray unto thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Also when ye pray, use no vain repetitions as the Heathen: for they think to be heard for their much babblings. Be ye not like them therefore: for your Father knoweth whereof ye need before ye ask of him. Matthew 6:5–8
- And so it was, that as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come: Let thy will be done, even in earth, as it is in heaven: Our daily bread give us for the day: And forgive us our sins: for even we forgive every man that is indebted to us: And lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil. Luke 11:1–4
- Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving. … Epaphras the servant of Christ, which is one of you, saluteth you, and always striveth for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect, and full in all the will of God. Colossians 4:2, 12
- Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17