Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire

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1 Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
unuttered or expressed,
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

2 Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

3 Prayer is the contrite sinners' voice,
returning from their way,
while angels in their songs rejoice
and cry, "Behold, they pray!"

4 Prayer is the Christians' vital breath,
the Christians' native air;
their watchword at the gates of death;
they enter heaven with prayer.

5 O Christ, by whom we come to God,
the Life, the Truth, the Way,
the path of prayer You also trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray!

Source: Celebrating Grace Hymnal #391

Author: James Montgomery

Montgomery, James, son of John Montgomery, a Moravian minister, was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, Nov. 4, 1771. In 1776 he removed with his parents to the Moravian Settlement at Gracehill, near Ballymena, county of Antrim. Two years after he was sent to the Fulneck Seminary, Yorkshire. He left Fulneck in 1787, and entered a retail shop at Mirfield, near Wakefield. Soon tiring of that he entered upon a similar situation at Wath, near Rotherham, only to find it quite as unsuitable to his taste as the former. A journey to London, with the hope of finding a publisher for his youthful poems ended in failure; and in 1792 he was glad to leave Wath for Shefield to join Mr. Gales, an auctioneer, bookseller, and printer of the Sheffield Register newspap… Go to person page >


Prayer is the soul's sincere desire. J. Montgomery. [Prayer.] This hymn was written in 1818, at the request of the Rev. E. Bickersteth, for his Treatise on Prayer. It was first printed in 1818, together with three other hymns by Montgomery on Prayer ("Thou, God, art a consuming fire," "Lord, teach us how to pray aright," and "What shall we ask of God in prayer?"), on a broadsheet, for use in the Sunday Schools of Sheffield (Wincobank Hall Library). In 1819 it was published simultaneously in Bickersteth's Treatise on Prayerand the eighth edition of Cotterill's SelectionsNo. 278. Cotterill's text is that of the broadsheet, whilst Bickersteth's is slightly different, as in stanza v. 1. 4, "And cry 'Behold’" &c, changed to "And say 'Behold,' " &c, and stanza vi., which reads in each: —

"In prayer on earth the saints are one,
In word, and deed, and mind;
When with the Father and His Son
Sweet fellowship they find."


"The saints in prayer appear as one,
In word, and deed, and mind,
When, with the Father, and the Son,
Their fellowship they find."

In his Christian Psalmist, 1825, No. 480, Montgomery repeated the text as in Bickersteth, with the change in st. vii. 1. 4 of "For sinners intercedes," into "For mourners intercedes.” In his private copy of the Christian Psalmist Montgomery marked st. iv. and v. to be transposed in case of a reprint, and this was carried into effect in his Original Hymns, 1853, No. 62. The altered line, st vii. line 4, is also restored to read "For sinners intercedes." In addition to the extensive use of the hymn in its full form, it is also abbreviated. Sometimes the abbreviated texts begin with the first stanza, and at other times with "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath," or with ”Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice.”

--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



NAOMI (Nägeli)

NAOMI was a melody that Lowell Mason (PHH 96) brought to the United States from Europe and arranged as a hymn tune; the arrangement was first published in the periodical Occasional Psalm and Hymn Tunes (1836). Some scholars have attributed the original melody to Johann G. Nageli (PHH 315), but there…

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