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
|First Line:||Prayer is the soul's sincere desire|
|Title:||Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire|
|Author:||James Montgomery (1818)|
|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: —
"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)