Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire

Representative Text

1 Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
uttered or unexpressed;
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

2 Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try,
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

3 Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
the Christian's native air,
his watchword at the gates of death:
he enters heaven with prayer.

4 Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice,
returning from his ways;
while angels in their songs rejoice,
and cry, 'Behold, he prays!

5 The saints in prayer appear as one,
in word and deed and mind;
while with the Father and the Son
sweet fellowship they find.

6 Nor prayer is made on earth alone:
the Holy Spirit pleads,
and Jesus on the eternal throne
for sinners intercedes.

7 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!

Source: Ancient and Modern: hymns and songs for refreshing worship #767

Author: James Montgomery

Montgomery, James, son of John Montgomery, a Moravian minister, was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, Nov. 4, 1771. In 1776 he removed with his parents to the Moravian Settlement at Gracehill, near Ballymena, county of Antrim. Two years after he was sent to the Fulneck Seminary, Yorkshire. He left Fulneck in 1787, and entered a retail shop at Mirfield, near Wakefield. Soon tiring of that he entered upon a similar situation at Wath, near Rotherham, only to find it quite as unsuitable to his taste as the former. A journey to London, with the hope of finding a publisher for his youthful poems ended in failure; and in 1792 he was glad to leave Wath for Shefield to join Mr. Gales, an auctioneer, bookseller, and printer of the Sheffield Register newspap… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: Prayer is the soul's sincere desire
Title: Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire
Author: James Montgomery (1818)
Language: English
Copyright: Public Domain
Liturgical Use: Prayer Songs


Prayer is the soul's sincere desire. J. Montgomery. [Prayer.] This hymn was written in 1818, at the request of the Rev. E. Bickersteth, for his Treatise on Prayer. It was first printed in 1818, together with three other hymns by Montgomery on Prayer ("Thou, God, art a consuming fire," "Lord, teach us how to pray aright," and "What shall we ask of God in prayer?"), on a broadsheet, for use in the Sunday Schools of Sheffield (Wincobank Hall Library). In 1819 it was published simultaneously in Bickersteth's Treatise on Prayerand the eighth edition of Cotterill's SelectionsNo. 278. Cotterill's text is that of the broadsheet, whilst Bickersteth's is slightly different, as in stanza v. 1. 4, "And cry 'Behold’" &c, changed to "And say 'Behold,' " &c, and stanza vi., which reads in each: — Cotterill.
"In prayer on earth the saints are one, In word, and deed, and mind; When with the Father and His Son Sweet fellowship they find."
"The saints in prayer appear as one, In word, and deed, and mind, When, with the Father, and the Son, Their fellowship they find."
In his Christian Psalmist, 1825, No. 480, Montgomery repeated the text as in Bickersteth, with the change in st. vii. 1. 4 of "For sinners intercedes," into "For mourners intercedes.” In his private copy of the Christian Psalmist Montgomery marked st. iv. and v. to be transposed in case of a reprint, and this was carried into effect in his Original Hymns, 1853, No. 62. The altered line, st vii. line 4, is also restored to read "For sinners intercedes." In addition to the extensive use of the hymn in its full form, it is also abbreviated. Sometimes the abbreviated texts begin with the first stanza, and at other times with "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath," or with ”Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice.” --John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



LAMBETH (Schulthes)

This tune has been mis-attributed to various other composers, but is clearly the work of the above-named composer.

Go to tune page >



You have access to this FlexScore.
Are parts of this score outside of your desired range? Try transposing this FlexScore.
General Settings
Stanza Selection
Voice Selection
Text size:
Music size:
Transpose (Half Steps):
Contacting server...
Contacting server...

Questions? Check out the FAQ

A separate copy of this score must be purchased for each choir member. If this score will be projected or included in a bulletin, usage must be reported to a licensing agent (e.g. CCLI, OneLicense, etc).

This is a preview of your FlexScore.
The Book of Common Praise: being the hymn book of The Church of England in Canada (revised 1938) #438b
The Cyber Hymnal #5649
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
Methodist Tune Book: a collection of tunes adapted to the Methodist Hymn book #72
The United Methodist Hymnal #492
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
  • Bulletin Score (PDF)
  • Full Score (PDF)


Instances (1 - 24 of 24)

Ambassador Hymnal #195


Ancient and Modern #767


Celebrating Grace Hymnal #391

Church Hymnal, Fifth Edition #625

TextPage Scan

Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #546

Page Scan

Common Praise #561

Complete Mission Praise #567

TextPage Scan

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary #387

Hymnal #572

Hymns and Psalms #557a

Hymns and Psalms #557b

Hymns for Today's Church (2nd ed.) #372

TextPage Scan

Moravian Book of Worship #749

Singing the Faith #529


Small Church Music #4046

The Baptist Hymnal #396


The Cyber Hymnal #5649

TextPage Scan

The New Century Hymnal #508

TextPage Scan

The New English Hymnal #442

The Song Book of the Salvation Army #625

TextFlexscoreAudioPage Scan

The United Methodist Hymnal #492

The United Methodist Hymnal Music Supplement II #31


The United Methodist Hymnal Music Supplement II #32

Page Scan

The Worshiping Church #620

Include 741 pre-1979 instances
Suggestions or corrections? Contact us