Lessons from Hymns: Friendship and Prayer

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

This week’s hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” reminds us of two beautiful and related truths.

The first truth is that Jesus regards us as a true, dear friend. We speak often of Jesus’ love for us, but we sometimes abstract that love from genuine affection. This hymn reminds us that Jesus doesn’t just love us, he likes us a lot, too. He doesn’t just tolerate us, but loves when we spend time with him in prayer. He died on the cross so that he could spend time with us forever.

Jesus’ friendship with us should lead to more than just happy, sentimental thoughts about our savior. It should lead us to be friends with people who aren’t like us. If Jesus—who is entirely perfect and without fault—can be friends with sinners like us, we can be friends with anyone. We are free to spend time with people who don’t think, speak, look, or act like us. Friendship with Jesus should lead us to humble hospitality. Jesus is a friend of sinners; we should be, too.

The second truth this hymn proclaims is that prayer is powerful. Jesus in his mercy allows us to speak with him. He allows us to come to him with any and all requests. We don’t have to clean ourselves up. We don’t have to be eloquent. We don’t have to be sinless. We can come before God exactly how we are.

The lyric that convicts me is, “O what peace we often forfeit/ O what needless pain we bear/ All because we do not carry/ Everything to God in prayer”. I am embarrassed sometimes by how long I suffer before I pray. It’s such an easy, beautiful thing to do. And yet so often we do everything in our own strength and use prayer as a last resort. A prayer should be the first thing on our lips in every situation.

Jesus invites us into his relational love. We get to speak with him and call him friend. These truths should change our lives.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

(Psalm 4:1)