Doug Johnson: Man’s service lead to one of the best-known songs

Published 4:52 am Sunday, November 22, 2020

In the town of Port Hope, Canada, there stands a monument, not for the leading citizen who just died, but for a poor, unselfish working man who gave most of his life and energy to help those who could not repay him.

Joseph Scriven was born in Dublin in 1820. In his youth, he had the prospect of becoming a great citizen with high ideals and great aspirations.

He was engaged to a beautiful young woman who had promised to share his dreams, but on the eve of their wedding her body was pulled from a pond into which she had accidentally fallen and drowned.

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Young Scriven never overcame the shock.

Although a college graduate and ready to embark on a brilliant career, he began to wander to try to forget his sorrow. His wanderings took him to Canada where he spent the last forty-one of his sixty-six years.

He became a very devout Christian. His beliefs led him to do servile labor for poor widows and sick people. He often served for no wages.

It was not known that Mr. Scriven had any poetic gifts until a short time before his death.

A friend, who was sitting with him in an illness, discovered a poem he had written to his mother in a time of sorrow, not intending that anyone should see it.

His poem was later set to music and has become a much-loved gospel song.

It is said to be the first song that many missionaries teach their converts.

In polls taken to determine the popularity of hymns and gospel songs, his poem set to music is always near the top.

What was his poem?

“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.

“What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear,

“All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Former F.B.I. chief, J. Edgar Hoover once said, “The spectacle of a nation praying is more awe-inspiring than the explosion of an atomic bomb. The force of prayer is greater than any possible combination of man-made or man-controlled powers, because prayer is man’s greatest means of tapping the infinite resources of God. Invoking by prayer the mercy and might of God is our most efficacious means of guaranteeing peace and security for the harassed and helpless people of the earth.”

Some may think that prayer is futile but we must remember that our country’s forefathers were men of prayer.

George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Let us not forget: it is prayer that has brought us this far and it is prayer that will see us through!

Rev. Doug Johnson is the senior pastor at Raven Assembly of God in Raven, Virginia.