Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed

One of the greatest hymns of all time for meditating on the sacrifice of the Savior on the cross is “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.” The text was written by Isaac Watts, regarded in many circles to be one of the greatest hymn lyricists—if not the greatest—of all time. According to the website hymnary.org, this is Watts’ most frequently published text, and the seventh such among all writers. The tune commonly associated with this text in more recent years (HUDSON), was composed by Ralph E. Hudson, who also (infamously, among many) wrote a chorus from which this text derives its other name, “At the Cross.” Continue reading

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Sweet Hour of Prayer

Those who write hymns can be said to be servants of many masters (Matthew 6.24 notwithstanding). Two such masters are Scriptural integrity and genuine emotional expression. These two considerations are often at odds with one another (or seem to be so). For instance, while the Psalms contain some of the strongest emotions of all of revealed inspiration, paraphrases of the Psalms—attempts to render the Psalms according to the conventions of English poetry—often feel stilted and completely devoid of emotion. On the other hand, many of the songs that are said to be the most emotionally-stirring are those which give only a token nod to an actual scriptural reference.

This does not have to be so. William W. Walford’s hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” is a personal statement of a disciple’s devotion to a life of prayer. It is filled with statements about one’s attitude toward prayer and relationship with prayer. At the same time, almost all of the phrases, while not necessarily direct quotations from the Bible, are clearly based on God’s word. Continue reading