Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Love to Thee -- Elizabeth Prentiss

Written by Elizabeth Prentiss, one verse of the hymn “More Love to Thee” does not appear in the hymnal Songs of Faith + Praise. It’s a pity, because they tell us something about her--about her faith. This song has been translated into many languages, including Chinese and Arabic, speaking to its widely accepted and genuine sentiments among believers. Elizabeth Prentiss only reluctantly shared her thoughts on this poem she wrote. In fact, she failed to show it to even her husband for 13 years after writing it…maybe she felt it wasn’t very good, or that it reminded her too much of a sad episode in her life. It is said she wrote this song while struggling to overcome a great loss, the death of two of her children. At the time, though inconsolable – as any of us would understandably be – she still leaned on her God. While reading + meditating on the story of Jacob, Mrs. Prentiss prayed that the Lord would meet her need in a special way, in the way that Jacob experienced the Lord. What experience was she thinking of? Did Elizabeth want to wrestle with God, the way Jacob did and walk away limping? (Gen. 32:24-32) Or, perhaps she was hoping for an eventual reunion with her children, the way Jacob was reunited with his son Joseph after giving him up for dead for so many years (Gen. 46:28-30). We really can’t say for sure, but if it was a family reunion that Elizabeth trusted God would grant her, that would be a praiseworthy event! It casts a different light on her song verse doesn’t it? She sounds like a confident, trusting disciple when she writes ‘Let sorrow and grief do its work’, because she knows God will send her messengers with a promise she can believe, a rock-solid guarantee that she’ll meet again in eternity those she has loved in Christ. That same reunion promise is for us, too. And not just for people we’ve known here on earth, but to meet God Himself. That’s really an awesome thing, and certainly worthy of each one of us pursuing God more zealously, with more devotion and commitment. And so, I can sing the song Elizabeth Prentiss wrote with expectation and gratitude. And if I’m feeling the sting of losing a Christian friend or relative, this old hymn, this 19th Century psalm, a love song directed toward our heavenly Father, speaks to me. It tells me that someone else was hurting once, and yet she found that a greater devotion to her Lord helped her through the struggle. Elizabeth Prentiss’extra verse: Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain; Sweet are thy messengers, sweet their refrain, When they can sing with me, more love O Christ to Thee,
More love to Thee, More love to Thee.

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