HYMN 87 Just a Closer Walk with Thee
This can be found in hymnals around the world in English
2 Corinthians 5:7; James 4:8;
Text: Anonymous Tune: arr. Kenneth Morris (1917-1989)
R/Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
1. I am weak, but Thou art strong, Jesus, keep me from all wrong, I’ll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to Thee. R/
2. Through this world of toil and snares, If I falter, Lord, who cares? Who with me my burden shares? None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee. R/
3. When my feeble life is o’er, Time for me will be no more, Guide me gently, safely o’er To Thy kingdom's shore, to Thy shore. R/
“We walk by faith, not sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7. Faith is a leap into the dark. We don't know what lies ahead but trust God will lead us. For Christians that means we have to keep in close touch with the Lord, as this song helps us pray. We trust the Lord to lead us forward into what we cannot see. We believe he is with us, leading and guiding us in the right way. How do we know where he is leading us?
There is an old saying among some Christians that if they can’t decide about something they should “Put out the fleece.” My parents would do that when they could not decide about some issue they were facing. They would look for a sign as did Gideon in Judges 7, wondering if God would be with him in saving Israel in the battle with the Midianites. He told God that he would go forth if the fleece he left on the ground was covered in dew while around it was dry. The next morning, the fleece was sopping wet and could fill a bowl of water, the ground dry. Gideon demurred, aware that he was asking a lot, and said to God, again, tomorrow, if the ground is wet and the fleece is dry, then I will believe you will be with me. He woke to find the ground wet and the fleece dry. Gideon was persuaded.
My parents did it, mostly in fun, but when they couldn’t decide, it was an easy way to decide if they were split fifty-fifty on a decision. They well knew that Gideon was testing God inappropriately. He knew what God wanted him to do and still he tested God. But God was patient with him.
A closer walk means a life of prayer. Our prayers were always intimate conversations with God, sometimes in agony, and many times with good humor which might end with us doubling over at my mother's quick humor. We lived in the presence of God. Prayer was sharing everything with the Lord. We could bring all our lives to him from the most difficult to the most inane—he was after all our closest companion. I often thought of it as putting an issue on the table and watching to see what would happen. Probably a better way to describe this kind of life is with the Latin phrase Coram Deo--to live all of one's life before the face of God. God is always present. Knowing that makes all of life holy.
The people who wrote and sang this song knew that God isn’t out there, far away, at a distance. He was always nearby, a friend who walked with them and shared their lives, in times of weakness, toil and snares. The whole Christian story is a centuries long account of how God came down into our world to be with us. John says in John 1:14, he came to dwell (tabernacle among us is the Greek).Why shouldn’t we share everything with him and include him in our most trivial conversations? How can we not? It is what he came for. He already knows everything; he promised to be with us always. Why should we be formal with him? Prayer is conversation with our friend. Jesus is there to comfort us, lead us, guide us, even for us to rage at, or laugh with, anything we would ask of our most intimate friend. This song prays to Jesus for help and advice in everything on our daily walk, its daily struggles, up to that final journey over the Jordan. That’s what friends are for. This friend is something else.
This world-famous song is one of those by anonymous. The story goes that some time in 1940, Kenneth Morris, an African American composer and graduate of the Manhattan Conservatory of Music, a jazz musician, composer, and music publisher, was riding the train from Kansas City to Chicago where he lived. At a stop, Morris stepped off the train to get some fresh air and heard a porter singing a song. He got back on the train, but the song he had heard kept on going through his head. At the next stop, he got off the train, and took another train back to where he had heard the porter singing. He found him and asked him to repeat the song. Morris wrote down the words and tune, added to and edited it, and then published it.
It was recorded by Selah Jubilee Singers in 1941 at Decca Records. It took off from there. Within two years it was a hit, as many singers and groups recorded it.
It became a standard issue Dixieland piece for New Orleans bands at funerals. According to Joshua Stewart, it would be performed during the funeral procession and at the parties after the burial. It became almost a signature piece for Mahalia Jackson who sang it frequently at her performances and recorded it several times. It later became an important song at the huge National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses begun by Thomas A. Dorsey in 1932--and is still going strong. Many many recording artists included it on their records.
Gladys Knights and the Pips
COGIC Women’s Chorus
Joshua Steward and the Bourbon Street Stompers