I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry

Full Text

1 I love the Lord; he heard my cry
and pitied every groan.
Long as I live and troubles rise,
I'll hasten to his throne.

2 I love the Lord; he heard my cry
and chased my grief away.
O let my heart no more despair
while I have breath to pray.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This text testifies to sorrow in life and to God’s unfailing rescue. Near death, the psalmist cried out and the Lord heard. Such deliverance is evidence of God’s gracious nature, and the psalmist offers this prayer of love and gratitude. 


Sing!  A New Creation

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Difficult times occur in the lives and communities of God’s people because this is a fallen world. The confessions demonstrate this perspective:

  • Belgic Confession, Article 15 teaches that “…by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been spread through the whole human race…a corruption of the whole human nature...” As a result, God’s people are “guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all [our] ways” (Article 14). In addition, “The devils and evil spirits are so corrupt that they are enemies of God and of everything good. They lie in wait for the church and every member of it like thieves, with all their power, to destroy and spoil everything by their deceptions” (Article 12).
  • Our World Belongs to God continues to affirm that “God has not abandoned the work of his hands,” nevertheless “our world, fallen into sin, has lost its first goodness...” (paragraph 4). And now “all spheres of life—family and friendship, work and worship school and state, play and art—bear the wounds of our rebellion” (paragraph 16).

Yet, in a fallen world, God’s providential care is the source of great assurance, comfort and strength. Through these thoughts, our trust in God is inspired.

  • Belgic Confession, Article 13 is a reminder that God’s providence reassures us that God leads and governs all in this world “according to his holy will…nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.” Further, this Confession identifies that this “gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father, who watches over us with fatherly care...in this thought we rest.”
  • Belgic Confession, Article 13, is a reminder that much is beyond human understanding and so “we do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what God does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend.”
  • In Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Question and Answer 26 we testify that we “trust God so much that [we] do not doubt that he will provide whatever [we] need for body and soul and will turn to [our] good whatever adversity he sends upon [us] in this sad world.”
  • In Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 28, we are assured that through our trust in the providence of God we can have “good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.”
  • When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask not to be brought into the time of trial but rescued from evil. In doing so we ask that the Lord will “uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle...” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 52, Question and Answer 127)

Belgic Confession, Article 26 speaks about the intercession of Christ as the ascended Lord. “We have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” We, therefore, do not offer our prayers as though saints could be our intercessor, nor do we offer them on the “basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.” Because Jesus Christ is our sympathetic High Priest, we approach the throne “in full assurance of faith.”


No greater assurance can be found than that expressed in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: “I am not my own by I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

In all difficult times, we eagerly await the final day when God “will set all things right, judge evil, and condemn the wicked” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 57).


I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry


The psalmist declares:
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
We gather as a community in need of a Savior.
We offer our honest confession,
in faith and trust in our covenant God,
knowing that God hears our voice.
—based on Psalm 116:1-2, NRSV
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Compassionate God,
you protect us from unseen danger
and catch us when we stumble and fall.
You answer when we call to you in prayer.
Help our worship of you to be sacrificial and our vows to you to be sincere,
serving and rejoicing because of you as long as we live. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry

Tune Information

C Major


Musical Suggestion

This Isaac Watts text from Psalm 116 is beautifully paired here with an African American spiritual. The instrumentation that you use for accompaniment is not as important as the tempo and the style. Play in a gospel style, filling in the beats with improvisation, keeping a quarter note no faster than mm=60.  Each stanza begins softly, but somewhat intensely, and grows to the high D in the 3rd system. The last line brings the volume and range down again, but not the intensity. There is great meaning in the last line—‘while I have breath to pray’—and especially while holding out the 7 beats on the word breath. 
— Diane Dykgraaf

It can be effective to sing this African American spiritual very slowly, taking a generous breath at the end of every phrase and even before the final two words of each stanza (e.g., “I’ll hasten to… breath] his throne”). The two stanzas can be used to frame a portion of the psalm or intercessory prayers.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

This tune, with its lush harmonies, is perfect for singing in harmony, perhaps by a choir. Accompany freely with piano, but don’t overwhelm the voices. Allow the dynamics to rise and fall with the natural swells of the melody. The tempo should not be fast and a slow tempo would be authentic to its roots in the African American tradition. 

I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry

Hymn Story/Background

The text is the first two verses of a paraphrase of Psalm 116:1-4 by Isaac Watts, known as the "father of English hymnody." Watts’ controversial settings of the psalms soon became very popular in many Presbyterian churches in the United States. In Southern Presbyterian churches, African-American slaves sitting in the balconies also grew to know and love the psalms of "Dr. Watts," as he was affectionately named by them. The tune is an anonymous African-American tune, harmonized by (and named after) Richard Smallwood, a composer and recording artist (www.richardsmallwood.com). Smallwood, along with two other men at Howard University, started the first black gospel choir on a college campus in the United States. [Sing! A New Creation]
This text is the opening excerpt from Isaac Watts’ paraphrase of Psalm 116 from his The Psalms of David Imitated. Watts’ psalms and hymns quickly spread from England to North America and were used by the white colonists and also taught to their black slaves. This setting is an example of the African-American appropriation of Watts’ texts.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Isaac Watts (b. Southampton, England, July 17, 1674; d. Bunfill Fields, England, November 25, 1748) was a precocious student and voracious reader. As a youth he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew. He declined an offer to study at Oxford and chose instead to attend an independent academy in Stoke Newington (1690-1694). From 1696 to 1701 Watts was tutor for the family of Sir John Hartopp, and in 1702 he became the pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London. However, ill health, which he had suffered for some years, took a serious turn in 1712. After that time he served the Mark Lane Chapel only on a part-time basis and moved in to the estate of Sir Thomas Abney to became the family chaplain, a position he held for the rest of his life. During the following thirty-six years Watts was a prolific author–writing books about theology, philosophy (including an influential textbook, Logic), and education, as well as conducting a voluminous correspondence.
Today, Watts is best remembered for his psalm paraphrases and hymns. Many of his contemporaries were exclusive psalm singers. After complaining about the poor quality of many of the psalm paraphrases, the teenager Watts was challenged by his father, "Give us something better!" So he began to write new psalm versifications in which he deliberately chose not to follow closely the King James text but instead to interpret the Old Testament psalms through contemporary British Christian and New Testament eyes.
The next step was to write hymns rather than Scripture paraphrases. What he called "hymns of human composure" established him as the creator of the modern English hymn; he is known as the "father of English hymnody." Altogether, Watts wrote more than six hundred psalm and hymn texts, which were published in his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), Divine Songs . . . for the Use of Children (1715), The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), and Sermons and Hymns (1721-1727). Most of Watts' texts use the traditional British ballad meters (Short Meter, Common Meter, and Long Meter) and state their theme in often memorable first lines. His work became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, including the United States, where, following the American Revolution, Watts' texts were edited by Timothy Dwight in 1801 to remove their British connotations. Several of his versifications and hymns are still found in most hymnals; especially loved are the paraphrase of Psalm 90, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," and the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Richard Smallwood (b. Washington, D.C., 1948), a composer, arranger, pianist, and innovator in the African American gospel style. Many of his arrangements of gospel hymns appear in Lift Every Voice and Sing (1981). Organized by Smallwood in 1967, the Richard Smallwood Singers have sung and recorded many of his arrangements. He remains their current director. Smallwood has a B.M. degree from Howard University, Washington, DC.
— Bert Polman

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