Sunday, July 30, 2017

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

What a Friend We Have in Jesus
By: Joseph Scriven

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, oh, what needless pain we bear, 
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer! 

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? 
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer:
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? 
Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer: 
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In his arms he'll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there. 
This favorite hymn about the unfailing friendship of Jesus was written by a man who had few close friends on earth.  He had experienced the sorrows of grief and loneliness; and he had poured out his life in service to others without thought to repayment of any kind. In fact, it was said of Joseph Scriven that he would only work for those who could not pay.  Born into a prosperous Irish family on September 10, 1819, Joseph Scriven successfully completed the requirements for entrance to Trinity College in Dublin, but after attending for only a short time, he decided to leave and join the army. Because of his poor health, his military career was cut short and he returned to Trinity College where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree. Soon after, Joseph was engaged to be married, but very tragically, the day before their wedding, his fiancee was thrown from her horse into the river and drowned. Overcome with grief, Joseph became despondent and withdrew from his friends and family. He left the religious traditions of his parents and decided to leave his homeland of Ireland to move to Canada in 1844 at the age of twenty-five. With the move, Joseph focused on trying to live his life described by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. He became a servant to the handicapped, the ill, the imprisoned, and poverty-stricken people. In Port Hope, Ontario, he cut and hauled wood for destitute families so they might survive the winter. Although he was respected by the townspeople for his deeds of mercy and kindness, he was viewed as an eccentric and was not integrated into their fellowship. Ten years later in 1855, Joseph received word that his mother was seriously ill. Since he didn't have enough funds to travel back home, he wrote three verses of a poem he titled "Pray without Ceasing." He sent them to his mother hoping they would life her spirits and comfort her. Mrs. Scriven gave a copy of the poem to a friend who had it published anonymously, and it quickly became a popular hymn, though no one knew who had written it. (Joseph had not intended for it to be read by anyone else.) When Joseph was confined to his bed with illness, a neighbor stopped in to see him. He saw Joseph's poem and asked if he had written it. Joseph replied, "The Lord and I did it between us."  Receiving Joseph's permission, the neighbor had it published in a small collection of poetry called Hymns and Other Verses
Sometime thereafter, Joseph met a Canadian women named Eliza Catherine Roche and, once again, planned to marry her. But before the wedding took place, Eliza contracted either pneumonia or tuberculosis in 1860 and died. To escape his sorrow, Joseph gave himself wholeheartedly into ministry, doing charity work for the Plymouth Brethren and preaching among the Baptists. He lived a simple, obscure life in Port Hope, Canada, cutting firewood for widows and giving away clothes and money to those in need. He was described as "a man of short stature, with iron-gray hair, close-cropped beard, and light blue eyes that sparkled when he talked." A while later, Charles Converse, a well-known composer of the day, wrote a melody for the verses Joseph had penned. The hymn was then retitled "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."
On the cold morning of October 10, 1886, Joseph Scriven, delirious from his illness, staggered outdoors where in fell into Rice Lake in Bawdly, Ontario, and drowned. He was 66 years old. In his memory, the citizens of Port Hope, Ontario erected a simple monument. On its face they inscribed the words of Joseph's hymn. The last line reflects the author's final hope: "In his arms He'll take and shield thee. Thou wilt find a solace there."

I hope you enjoyed reading about the author of this loved hymn. Something I found interesting was that Ira Sankey knew him. 

May you all be filled with the love and grace of Jesus this week. 

much love,

Psalm 68:5
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.

Philippians 4:6-7
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 


  1. I cannot even begin to put into words what this song has meant to me. I remember sitting at the keyboard and singing and playing it over and over as the tears fell unceasing from my eyes. The comfort in this song could only be wrenched from a place of utter brokenness and by one whom our dear friend, Jesus, had ministered to, intimately and personally. I have heard and read Joseph Scriven's tragic story different times, and each time, it has touched me deeply. The dear man will never know what an impact he has made on this world with that precious, simple poem he wrote for his mother. You and I may never know or see how God will use our simple, seemingly insignificant, daily deeds. Our job is to be faithful at our post of duty and ever mind God in all He asks us to do. I am thankful you shared this story...this post was a blessing to me this morning while going through severe trials. I am SO thankful for our precious Friend and His faithfulness.

    1. This song has been a comfort and has ministered to me many times. Thank you for your encouragement. Sometimes it's hard to do the simple, daily things, but you are right. God sees us every minute of every day, and we just need to be faithful. I am so thankful Jesus is a true/best friend and will never let us down. I am praying for you this week, dear friend.

  2. Hi Ashley,

    Enjoyed your post about this hymn. This was one of my uncle’s favorite hymn and on Sunday evening at request time, he would always request this hymn. The night of his visitation, we came out of the funeral home and the carillon of the Presbyterian church just the next block over was playing this hymn. It was just so appropriate at the time and I will never forget it.

    Love you,
    Grandma Minner

  3. I vaguely remember hearing about the writer behind "What a Friend We Have In Jesus" but I didn't remember all those details. What a sad story, but such a powerful testimony!


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