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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, May 31, 2020  

Today’s Hymn

O Jesus, I have promised
to serve thee to the end;
be thou forever near me,
my Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle
if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway
if thou wilt be my guide.

O let me feel thee near me!
The world is ever near
I see the sights that dazzle;
the tempting sounds I hear.
My foes are ever near me,
around me and within;
but, Jesus, draw thou nearer
and shield my soul from sin

“O Jesus, I Have Promised” (vv. 1–2) by John Ernest Bode
Hymn 724, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

According to C. Michael Hawn, this hymn was originally written when the author’s children were going to be confirmed. Based on John 12:23–26, the hymn speaks of the disciple’s desire to follow Jesus, regardless of what may come. In the Gospel of John, the passage falls after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when Jesus stands at the precipice of his last week and bids his disciples to continue the journey with him. Although that feels like a daunting biblical context for a Confirmation Sunday, I appreciate the focus on the author’s confidence that as long as Jesus remains by his side, he will not wander away from the walk of faith. And I can understand why he would hope his children would affirm that same confidence as they claimed the promises of their baptism for themselves.

What speaks to me the most, however, in these days of self-isolation is the author’s pleading in the second stanza for Jesus to make his presence not just known in his life but felt in his life. “O let me feel thee near me! . . . Jesus, draw thou nearer.” Honestly, I could sing that over and over again, both as an opening prayer for the day and as I close my eyes at night.

Yet the “foes” that can cause me to forget God’s accompanying presence are not the dazzling temptations of the world; rather, the foes with whom I sometimes battle are the foes of malaise and despondency. I find myself battling against the temptation to lose hope and courage when I know in my spirit the opposite is needed. Therefore, when I find myself in that space, this hymn can aid me in praying for Jesus to draw nearer so I might keep lifting my head and following. Honestly, knowing this hymn was tied to confirmation is comforting because it reminds me of the daily call to claim faith and trust in God. I may have only gone through the official confirmation process once, but I am having to reaffirm my faith on a much more regular basis these days. This confirmation hymn can help me to do just that.

O Jesus, draw thou nearer and lift my head. Help me to see the hope that you continuously give and keep my feet on the path of faithfulness and courage. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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