Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Tuesday, March 10

Ben Walter

What A Friend We Have in Jesus

"What A Friend We Have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
Oh what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!"


This has always been one of my favorite hymns. I can still hear the distinct voices from the small church I grew up in singing this song. The tune is catchy, reverent and joyful all at the same time. As with many Bible passages, the lyrics have become more meaningful and poignant since my introduction to them as a child. The author is expressing the relief and the peace we can feel when we pray. The prayer the author describes is not prayer that asks God to fix things, give things to us, or do things for us. The author simply describes the peace prayer brings when we carry everything to God in prayer. In the second verse, The author again describes this peace: "Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer" and "Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer."


The author says, "Take it to the Lord in prayer", not to ask God for a solution or a gift. This distinction is important, because I think the real peace comes from knowing God understands and God has heard us. The peace of God does not come from material gains or from an easy life, but from the understanding that God understands us.


Being heard and understood is the real power of prayer. The title of the hymn and the opening line "What A Friend We have in Jesus" frames the lyrics as describing prayer as a conversation between friends. The hymn describes Jesus as a friend, one who bears our sins and griefs, can share our sorrows, knows our every weakness, is a refuge, a protector, and one who will shield us. Jesus is a friend who listens and hears us. The lyrics describes Jesus as a friend who knows his friend well-knows their pain, their sins, faults, temptations and weaknesses. These are all qualities of earthly friends that we may have. Much like when we take our sorrows and stress to the Lord in prayer, when we "vent" with a friend, we don't expect our friend to always provide a solution to our problems or to fix our problem, but merely them listening and understanding us provides us some peace.


When we do not carry our burdens to God, we give up peace and bear needless pain. When life becomes overwhelming, and we search for a relief, we sometimes find there is no earthly solution to our problems. No amount of toil can fix a mistake that has already been made. Situations will not quickly change, no matter our action. Peace will only come when we talk to Jesus as our friend, bear our sins and sorrows and take it to the Lord in prayer.


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