Precious are the times when a classic hymn transfixes you. One did this week. Under pressure for a sermon draft deadline, my head was down and the fingers moving across the keyboard as iTunes played a shuffle of songs behind. That’s when I heard Anglican John Newton’s 1779 hymn, “I Asked the Lord that I Might Grow.”
Here is the full text:
1 I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and ev’ry grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
2 ‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray;
And He, I trust, has answered prayer:
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
3 I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And, by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
4 Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in ev’ry part.
5 Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe,
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Humbled my heart, and laid me low.
6 “Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried;
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“‘Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
7 “These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free,
To break thy schemes of worldly joy,
That thou mayst seek thy all in me.”
In just seven verses Newton wonderfully captures the truth of sanctification for the believer. Remarkably, the hymn made only 122 appearances between 1791-1888. It disappeared from hymnals until rediscovered today.