Soon after my husband’s death in October, I received a lovely sympathy card with the words of Lamentations 3:22-23:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness.”
I decided to use those verses in a “Praying with Scripture” post. As I was working on it, a hymn came into my mind; I couldn’t stop singing it. So I decided to use the hymn lyrics – along with the scripture passage. The verses and choruses of the hymn follow, along with some questions and suggestions that may help you pray with the hymn. But first here is the history of the hymn as told in the website Independent Baptist .com.
“Thomas Obadiah Chisolm (1866-1960) had a difficult early adult life. His health was so fragile that there were periods of time when he was confined to bed, unable to work. Between bouts of illness he would have to push himself to put in extra hours at various jobs in order to make ends meet. After coming to Christ at age 27, Thomas found great comfort in the Scriptures, and in the fact that God was faithful to be his strength in time of illness and weakness, and to provide his needs. Lamentations 3:22-23 was one of his favorite scriptures: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”
While away from home on a missions trip, Thomas often wrote to one of his good friends, William Runyan, a relatively unknown musician. Several poems were exchanged in these letters. Runyan found one of Williams’ poems so moving that he decided to compose a musical score to accompany the lyrics. Great is Thy Faithfulness was published in 1923.
For several years , the hymn got very little recognition, until it was discovered by a Moody Bible Institute professor who loved it so much and requested it sung so often at chapel services, that the song became the unofficial theme song of the college.
It was not until 1945 when George Beverly Shea began to sing Great is Thy Faithfulness at the Billy Graham evangelistic crusades, that the hymn was heard around the world.
Thomas Chisolm died in 1960 at age 94. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 1,200 poems and hymns including O To Be Like Thee and Living for Jesus.”
So below I offer you a lectio divina (sacred reading) experience to use with one of my favorite hymns. Read the words prayerfully – to yourself and then out loud. If you have a recording of the hymn, play that. Then meditate on the questions following each section and do the suggested exercises.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
♥ Read Lamentations 3: 1-18 and focus on all the pain and suffering expressed there.
♥ What pain and suffering have you endured in 2020? How has God shown his presence through those experiences? Think about experiences in your life when you were afraid that God was far away from you.
♥ Thank God for never turning away from you, for always being compassionate towards you, for being the same God yesterday and today and tomorrow.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
♥ Praise God for providing everything you need. Ask God to help you recognize these many blessings.
♥ Use the phrase, “Great is thy faithfulness” whenever a happy thought or a lovely memory, or a beautiful musical theme floats on the air.
♥ Before you get out of bed each morning, think about what “new mercies” you might see during this new day. Give thanks to the Father who will bestow them all on you.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
♥ Thank God for your favorite seasonal experiences: the reds and oranges of autumn leaves, the soft falling of snowflakes on a calm winter day; the first pansies of spring; the blue skies of summer. Be a witness to the faithfulness of God through the seasons of the year.
♥ Pay special attention to lights and candles and other joyful moments of the Advent season. Thank God for the Light that came into the world in Bethlehem.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
♥ Create a gratitude journal and list some of the “ten thousand” blessings God provides for you each day. Be very specific. For example, instead of being grateful for the beauty in the world, thank God for:
- the still-flowering orange begonia plant in your bedroom, a Mother’s Day gift from your daughter-in-law,
- the sun shining through the beveled glass in your front door, creating stunning flashes of reds and blues and greens,
- the huge framed photograph on a wall in your living room of an eagle flying over the rolling waves of Lake Michigan, given to you decades ago by a friend, now a strong Christian, who valued your input as he shared his loss of faith.
♥ Keep in mind during the hard days of the pandemic that God will provide strength to get through today and hope for each tomorrow. Thank God daily for his presence in your life and in the world.