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. —Unknown
Prayer is releasing the energies of God. For prayer is asking God to do what we cannot do ourselves. —Selected
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!
Matthew 6:5–8; Luke 11:1–4; Colossians 4:2, 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17