By LAURA LEE LEATHERS
Years ago, on a Focus on the Family program, I heard Joni Eareckson Tada say that we should keep a hymnal next to our Bibles. Why? Because theology is found in the hymns and promotes worship. Also, people memorize scripture better when it’s set to music.
In my possession I have a collection of 12 hymnals. The oldest is The New Cokesbury Hymnal, copyright 1928, published by The Cokesbury Press. It cost 35 cents at the time of publication. I also have the hymnal from the church I attended as a child. I only use the hymnals when I’m practicing for a church service.
Well, it’s time to change that habit!
During a recent church service, we sang “Make Me A Channel of Blessing.” Later that day, I started thinking about other hymns that referenced blessings. I wrote down the titles I knew from memory and researched for more.
As I looked at my list, I realized I had a short worship service. See if you agree. The following is a synopsis of the hymns. For the words, please use your hymnal or look them up on the Internet.
‘Bless His Holy Name’
This is one of the hymns written by Andraé Crouch, 1973. The hymn is based upon Psalm 103:1.
The main lyric is, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, Bless His holy name.” If you were reading Psalm 103, you could begin or end your reading with this hymn.
‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’
Written by Robert Robinson, the music is from an arrangement from The Sacred Harp by John Drakestone.
My favorite lines are, “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace / Streams of mercy, never ceasing / Call for songs of loudest praise.”
‘There Shall Be Showers of Blessing’
The words are by Daniel W. Whittle, music by James McGranahan.
The hymn is based on Ezekiel 34:26, “I will send down showers in their season — showers of blessings.”
‘Count Your Blessings’
Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote the words, and the music is by Edwin O. Excell.
My favorite verse is number four: “So amid the conflict, whether great or small / Do not be discouraged, God is over all / Count your many blessings, angels will attend / Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”
‘Make Me a Channel of Blessing’
Words and music are by Harper G. Smyth.
Verse two challenges me with these questions: “Are you burdened for those who are lost? / Have you urged upon those who are straying / The Savior who died on the cross?”
Words are by Thomas Ken, and the music is from the Genevan Psalter, 1551 edition, with composition attributed to Louis Bourgeois.
Around the world, many church services end with this hymn. How beautiful it is to hear the congregation sing, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow … ”
It adds so much meaning to the hymn when you know the story behind a particular melody. For example, many people are familiar with the stories behind “Amazing Grace,” “It Is Well with My Soul,” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
Also, who wrote the words and music? For example, was it Martin Luther, Charles Wesley, Fanny J. Crosby, Keith and Kristyn Getty, or Horatio G. Spafford? When did they write, and what was taking place in history?
Robert J. Morgan has written extensively on hymn stories in “Then Sings My Soul,” Books 1 and 2. Another book is “40 Favorite Hymns on the Christian Life” by Leland Ryken. You can also find devotional books based on hymns.
Also, I need to inform you that I don’t have a degree in music. I’m not a professional singer or a hymnologist. But I do love to sing and learn about hymns.
Sing of His blessings
As I sang my “blessing” hymns to the Lord, words like “mercy,” “grace” and “forgiveness” leaped off the page. I also saw a progression: adoration, His faithfulness, renewal, thankfulness, service, and praise (most hymnals categorize by topic).
Perhaps this is why the psalmist wrote, “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1-2, NKJV).
It’s time to start on a new habit, a hymnal next to my Bible. Have you got yours? Together, let’s sing of His blessings!
Baptist Hymnal, Copyright 2008, LifeWay Worship, Nashville, Tennessee, Mike Harland, Project Executive, was the resource for this article.
In this new season of her life, Laura Lee hopes to focus on her three passions: freelance writing, sharing and serving through hospitality, and cultivating Lady Laura’s Garden, a cut-flower farm. You can contact her at LauraLeeLeathers.com.