What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Full Text

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!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O 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 we weak and heavy 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 take and shield you;
you wilt find a solace there.

Worship and Rejoice

Author: Joseph Medlicott Scriven

Scriven, Joseph. Mr. Sankey, in his My Life and Sacred Songs, 1906, p. 279, says that Scriven was b. in Dublin in 1820, was a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and went to Canada when he was 25, and died there at Port Hope, on Lake Ontario, in 1886. His hymn:— What a Friend we have in Jesus. [Jesus our Friend] was, according to Mr. Sankey, discovered to be his in the following manner: "A neighbour, sitting up with him in his illness, happened upon a manuscript of 'What a Friend we have in Jesus.' Reading it with great delight, and questioning Mr. Scriven about it, he said he had composed it for his mother, to comfort her in a time of special eorrow, not intending any one else should see it." We find the hymn in H. 1... Hastings's S… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear
Title: What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Author: Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1855)
Meter: D
Language: English


Scripture References:
st. 1 = John 15:15, Eph.6:18, 1 Thess. 5: 17
st. 3 = Matt. 11:28-30

Joseph M. Scriven (b. Seapatrick, County Down, Ireland, 1819; d. Bewdley, Rice Lake, ON, Canada, 1886), an Irish immigrant to Canada, wrote this text near Port Hope, Ontario, in 1855. Because his life was filled with grief and trials, Scriven often needed the solace of the Lord as described in his famous hymn.
Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, he enrolled in a military college to prepare for an army career. However, poor health forced him to give up that ambition. Soon after came a second blow–his fiancee died in a drowning accident on the eve of their wedding in 1844. Later that year he moved to Ontario, where he taught school in Woodstock and Brantford. His plans for marriage were dashed again when his new bride-to-be died after a short illness in 1855. Following this calamity Scriven seldom had a regular income, and he was forced to live in the homes of others. He also experienced mistrust from neighbors who did not appreciate his eccentricities or his work with the underprivileged. A member of the Plymouth Brethren, he tried to live according to the Sermon on the Mount as literally as possible, giving and sharing all he had and often doing menial tasks for the poor and physically disabled. Because Scriven suffered from depression, no one knew if his death by drowning in Rice Lake was suicide or an accident.

Scriven wrote "What a Friend" to comfort his sick mother in Dublin, possibly right after the death of his second fiancee. When asked by a neighbor about his writing of the text, Scriven modestly commented, “The Lord and I did it between us.” The text was published anonymously in Horace Hastings's Social Hymns, Original and Selected (1865), but Scriven was given proper credit in Hastings's Songs of Pilgrimage (1886). Ira D. Sankey (PHH 73) included the text, set to the familiar tune by Charles C. Converse, in his various hymnals (from 1875 on).

Scriven's text clearly arises from his own experiences in life. Although not great poetry, the text has spiritual appeal and an effective repeated phrase, "take it to the Lord in prayer." Because of its simple encouragement to "pray without ceasing," the text is much loved in many circles of Christendom. A collection of his poetry was published in Hymns and Other Verses (1869).

Liturgical Use:
As a hymn of encouragement to pray amid the "sins and griefs" we encounter on our journey of life.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



CONVERSE (also "Erie", named for the city in Pennsylvania where the composer lived for many years) was written in 1868 and published two years later in his Silver Wings under the pseudonym Karl Reden. The tune has also been called "Friendship." Born in Warren, Massachusetts, on October 7, 1832, Char…

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