O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
By: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
Listen as you read. This version is features the tune that is more often used in the UK.
There is such a different energy in this version which features a tune less common in the US. I think it really matches this stanza. That is true whether you see this as a prayer or a statement.
Statement or Prayer
I keep re-reading this and keep coming up with the same two possibilities. At first, I think this is a statement. My Gracious Master and my God assist me. To do what? To proclaim. Yes and Amen! God does assist us to proclaim His name. If he did not, we could not possibly adequately spread the honors of His name to the entire earth. It seems like a statement.
That is until you understand it with the last verse, which by the way is what each line of a hymn stanza is actually called. “The honors of Thy name.” Up to this point it seems like it could be statement declaring that God actually does help us. This resonates with us because He does. However, I believe this last line makes it a prayer.
Why is this important? Because most of the other stanzas are actually horizontal. They are directed from one worshipper to another, or at least another prospective worshipper. We may examine that aspect to some of those other stanzas later, we simply have not gotten to them yet. This stanza is unusual in the context of this hymn because it is directed vertically. It is sung directly to God, making an appeal for His assistance. The vertical direction is important because in it we may learn a valuable lesson.
Help Me, Jesus!
If we are going to have any real hope of proclaiming the glory of our God, we are going to need His help! This represents the key tuning element for this installment. Seems simple and straightforward, but let me ask you what at first may seem like a simple question. When was the last time you prayed and asked God to assist you in telling the world about Him? Of course this is not limited to praising Him in song, but I also do not believe it excludes help with that.
Directions for Singing
And Charles Wesley’s brother John offered some help from His perspective which he intended would illicit better signing. His seven principles were written for a particular volume of hymns, but many can be applied in a broader context. That is certainly true of this one.
4. Sing Lustily – and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sang the songs of Satan.
So how are you doing with that? Do you sing lustily? If not, why not? When was the last time you asked God specifically to help you sing? Have you ever asked Him?
Tune your heart to sing His praise, by asking Him to assist You spread through all the earth abroad the honors of His name. And then, make haste to find a group of worshippers to which to lend Your newly loosed tongue.
Jesus, thank You for Your willingness to assist me in proclaiming You name. Forgive me for not asking sooner or more often. I confess I need Your help to do this and so I am asking. Help me, Jesus, to proclaim Your name, when I am singing, and when I am not. In Jesus name. Amen.
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