Friday, March 31, 2017

Lord Speak to Me -- Frances Havergal

This 36-year old Englishwoman wrote something in 1872 she called “A Worker’s Prayer” as she considered what would be useful to members of the church where she worshipped. But, she didn’t want it to sound like she was the one giving the advice, so she said “Lord Speak to Me”, an appeal that Frances Ridley Havergal must have made many times over the course of her short life. She may have been an adult, but what she crafted indicates she hadn’t grown up too much to ask for and accept advice from above. From where did such an attitude derive, and was this song’s episode different from others that stimulated her poetic nature?

Frances was the daughter of an Anglican minister (her father) and probably never forgot the last moments with her mother, though they were some 25 years removed from the poem-song that she would write in her mid-30s. Having deeply spirit-led parents imbued Frances with a consciousness close to her Creator in ways that mimicked those who brought her into the world, most especially her father. He was also a hymn-writer, a trait that he passed on to Frances. Her mother’s influence must have also been strong, as the story of her deathbed encouragement to 11-year old Frances is known today, perhaps coming from Frances’ own memory. The Havergals’ daughter was already a bright, committed believer before her teenage years, having begun reading the bible by age 4 and writing poetry not long afterward. She reportedly learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and committed to memory lengthy portions of the bible, including Psalms, Isaiah, and the New Testament during the remainder of her childhood. So, it comes as no surprise that Frances would write dozens of books and hymns in her adult years – the fruit of her upbringing. Frances’ health apparently caused her difficulty frequently, so her death at the age of 42 was not entirely unexpected either. Perhaps it was the ill health that also drew her toward him, as well as the memory of her own mother’s premature demise but nevertheless evident heavenward devotion. “Lord, Speak to Me” can be summed up, therefore, as Frances’ life experience -- a poem-prayer to Him, as well as a model to fellow believers. She wanted to be useful, and the words she shared indicate she must have been asked by others to share what was the key to her life. The answer? Go talk to Him first – that’s in the first line of all seven of her poem’s verses.         
Prayer is access for everyone, and that’s what Frances wanted everyone to realize. And, it’s not just an isolated incident between my Creator and myself. Frances understood in “Lord Speak to Me” that seeking His direction should compel me toward others here, to share what He has for them. He’s not stingy, a notion that Frances Havergal had apparently grasped and wanted to share. “Lord, Speak…” has a dual purpose; there’s the one-to-one vertical connection in prayer, but also the resulting horizontal me-to-others link. That’s what Frances wants me to see. You suppose He told her that, too?  

See more information on the song story in these sources: The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen and Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale House Publishers, 2006; Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications, 1990; and Then Sings My Soul – 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories, Robert J. Morgan, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.

Also see this link, showing all seven original verses:
See biography of composer here:

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