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HYMN 41 Teach Me to Know your Ways

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

Danish: Lær meg å kjenne dine veier

Isaiah 55:6-11; Psalm 77;

Text: Jakob Paulli (1844-1915) Tune: Norwegian folk tune from Åseral

1. Teach me to know your ways, O Jesus,

And follow you along life’s way.

I know that all I have and cherish

Has come from you and all you say.

But with your hand, O Lord, direct me;

When I look up and see the end,

When ev’ry tear on earth has perished

I have a hope that lives in heav’n.

2. Teach me to know your thoughts, O Jesus,

So I can practice them each day.

And when my heart with grief is beating,

Then you must call me on my way.

When I have longed for death to take me,

O say what you, O Lord, have thought,

So I can see the morning sunrise,

Beyond my sorrow and my doubt

3. So teach me most of all to cherish

The boundless love that set me free

Which kindles all the stars in heaven

When joy’s bright sun has set for me.

Love dries the tears that it created

And heals the wounds that throb and ache

Its way goes through our pains and losses

And gives more joy than we can take.

Tr. Gracia Grindal 2011


Dr. John Stensvaag

“In preparation for ministry, memorize these passages:” This was the assignment for

Dr. John Stensvaag’s course on Isaiah which he taught at Luther Seminary. The

passages were from Isaiah and included 55:6ff. “For my thoughts are not your

thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

Our hymn writer writes his hymn to explore the notion that God does not think like

us, fortunately. All we can do is trust that he is leading us, and that he “has called us

to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths untrodden, through perils

unknown,” as a prayer by Eric Milner-White in the Matins service goes.

Lina Sandell learned this truth after watching her father drown. She and her father

had been traveling to Gothenberg from their home in Småland. The easiest way was

by boat over the two large lakes in the middle of Sweden—the Vättern and Vännern.

The night they boarded the boat for the journey over Vättern they read Psalm 77:19,

“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your

footprints were unseen.”

The next morning they were walking on deck and her father held out his hand to

her. Just then, a wave came and swept him away. All she saw was his white hair

bobbing in the water for a brief moment and then he was gone. She went into

something of a catatonic fit and couldn’t speak for some time. Only after someone

read the psalm to her again, did she recover her senses. She spent the rest of her life

believing that someday she would understand why that happened, but not in this


Paulli, facing difficulties and sorrow, asked God to teach him to know his ways,

asking, really, to help him find meaning in a world that seemed meaningless. To

believe today during all this uncertainty that God is here guiding us requires a leap

of faith into a darkness filled with perils. All Paulli could do, however, was look to

the end and hope he was being led the right way. The hymn does shine with hope.

In John 14:23, Jesus promised that he and his Father would dwell in our hearts and

teach us all things. God as my teacher, dwelling in me: the ultimate home school! The

lessons are difficult, but we trust, as another hymn says more simply, “We will

understand it better bye and bye.” Can we rest in this now, when God seems to be

silent, during our fear and confusion as we are still sheltering at home? There are

many reasons to be fearful. But an even bigger reason to hope: The boundless love

of Jesus that sets us free from worry and doubt.


The story Sissel tells that the author of the hymn came home from a trip and found

his entire family killed in a fire, is not quite true according to the scholars. But Paulli,

a Danish pastor and scholar, met with tragedies. He did, himself, perish in a fire. An

orthodox Lutheran with a high church bent, he served in the Danish court as

confessor and friend to the royals; he taught homiletics at the pastoral seminary in

Copenhagen and wrote several hymns, one a wedding song for which he is best

known in Denmark. The Norwegian folk tune has maybe made it a favorite of the

gospel and jazz singers in Norway. Sissel sang it for the wedding of Princess Märthe

Louise of Norway and Ari Behn in 2002.



Sissel at the royal wedding

Sigvart Dagsland

Arne Domnérus

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