Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
  Uttered, or unexpressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
  That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
  The falling of a tear;
The upward glancing of an eye
  When none but God is near.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
  That infant lips can try;
Prayer the sublimest strains that reach
  The Majesty on high.
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
  The Christian’s native air;
His watchword at the gates of death;
  He enters rest with prayer.
The saints in prayer appear as one,
  In word, and deed, and mind;
While with the Father and the Son
  Sweet fellowship they find.
O Thou, by whom we come to God,
  The Life, the Truth, the Way,
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod—
  Lord, teach us how to pray.
Ana Lara

Storrs, Connecticut, United States

The tune to this hymn was written by James Walch who was a musician and a composer, born near Bolton, Lancashire, England in 1837. He spent his early life in the town and was organist in several churches there, including the Parish Church of Saint Georges.

From 1870 to 1877 he was conductor for the Bolton Philharmonic Society. He also composed at least four published hymn-tunes, the best known is one called “Tidings, ” written in 1875 usually used as a tune to a hymn called “O Zion Haste. ”

James Walch was a musical instrument dealer by trade, and moved to Barrow-in-Furness in 1877. He later moved to Llandudno Junction in North Wales, where he died in August 1901 and was buried locally. His wife later donated money to pay for the organs in two local churches, Saint Paul’s Llandudno and All Saints Deganwy, in his memory.

Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

When the reverend Edward Bickersteth had written his "Treatise on Prayer", he turned to newspaper editor James Montgomery to write a hymn about prayer that he could use in his book. Today, Rev. Bickersteth's volume has been forgotten, but the newspaperman's hymn is still being sung.

This hymn is a theological definition in poetic form. What is prayer? Bickersteth may have said it more completely, but Montgomery defined it simply. (Montgomery later said he received more praise for this hymn than anything else he had written.)

Many years after he retired, Montgomery continued to conduct family prayer meetings in his home. After he closed one such meeting of prayer, he walked quietly to his room. The next day he was found unconscious on the floor and later died. As he had written in this hymn, prayer is the Christian's "watchword at the gates of death; he enters heaven with prayer." - Great Songs of Faith by Brown & Norton

Steve Miller

Detroit, MI, United States

There are 2 additional verses:

After verse 3 or 4:

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,

Returning from his ways,

While angels in their songs rejoice

And cry, “Behold, he prays!”

Before last verse:

No prayer is made by man alone

The Holy Spirit pleads,

And Jesus, on th’eternal throne,

For sinners intercedes.


Brilliant! It's so true. Many thanks.