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HYMN 38 What a Friend We Have In Jesus

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

John 15:12-17

Text: Joseph Scriven (1820-1886) Tune: Charles Crovat Converse (1832-1918)

Christ at Emmaus Rembrandt

1. 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

2. 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.

3. Are you weak and haven laden?

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge—

Take it to the Lord in Prayer

Do your friends despise, forsake you?

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

In his arms he’ll hold and shield you:

You will find a solace there.


“Yes, I know all that, my dear,” said my father holding his pen like a cigar in his hand, a familiar pose, after I had come home from college with my new skepticism in full plumage. “The question is, what do you think of Jesus? Do you know about him, only, or is he your


He had me there. Faith is not knowledge, it is belief in Jesus, and a relationship with him.

Jesus in his farewell discourses goes to great lengths to explain to the disciples what his

life and work are all about. He came to be with us--Immanuel, God with us; to live in

close relationship with us. He and his father, he says, will come to abide in us. There, in

our hearts, the godhead will dwell, Jesus says. And he will be our friend.

Thus we can talk frequently to the Lord. It is no long distance call, either. Through faith,

he lives in our hearts, ever present and ready to talk.

That is the message of our hymn today. The writer of this hymn, among the top ten

favorites of all time, Joseph Scriven, a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, suffered

great anxieties and troubles. Raised in Ireland, in a home of substance, he left Ireland not

long after his fiancé died of drowning the night before their wedding. It was an

unimaginable blow. He fled to Ontario, Canada. There he heard his mother was

dangerously ill. He wrote her this poem, calling it, “Pray without ceasing.”

As he settled into life in Canada, he found new love and, in 1860, was about to marry

when his fiancé died of pneumonia. This was a blow from which he never really

recovered. He continued writing and working. That he had written the text, which he had

published anonymously, became known only near the end of his life. In 1886, Scriven

was caught in the depths of despair from his ill health, poverty and deep depression. At a

camp with some friends who were watching over him, he left his room in the middle of

the night without notice. His body was found floating in the lake the next morning. Those

with him were never sure if it had been accident or suicide.

One might have wished someone could have sung his famous words back to him in his

time of despair. It may have encouraged him as his words have lifted millions around the

world on hearing his song so simply set by Charles Converse.

The line is open, as Scriven wrote in this poem. Take all your troubles without ceasing,

all the worries and anxieties you are having just now, to the Lord in prayer. It is what he

came for, to take on all our troubles, and exchange them for his peace. He is right here. A

friend indeed.


Charles Crozat Converse, who composed the tune, had studied law and musical composition in Leipzig, Germany, where almost every composer of the time would go to study composition. Converse, well along in years, died during the second wave of the 1918 influenza epidemic.


Ella Fitzgerald

Via Vitae


Vision children’s choir from Uganda

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