‘Before Work’ was the title of this six-stanza hymn when it was first published in 1749 in Hymns and Sacred Poems. In 1989, it was included in The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH) under the title ‘Forth in thy Name’.
In this hymn, Charles Wesley encourages us to work with delight and know that by God’s grace we are enabled to complete the day’s tasks.
In the 1989 UMH, the original stanzas 3 and 5 were omitted. However, Carlton Young, the UMH editor, incorporated them in his discussion in the Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal. He described stanza 3 as “the poet’s warning against busyness for its own sake” while in stanza 5, Young highlighted the “duty and delight of the faithful as they journey toward that eternal glorious day.”1
The four stanzas in The United Methodist Hymnal are ascribed to several scripture passages.2 Stanza 1 speaks of confidence in the Lord – that in Him, the singer finds strength (2 Cor. 3:5-6). Stanza 2 reminds us not to be self-centred, but instead do our best in all we do for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Stanza 3 may be ascribed to Colossians 3:23 where Paul wrote, “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.” Stanza 4 points us to Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
‘Forth in Thy Name’ is a hymn we can sing or say as a prayer before leaving home for work. We may not be in the best of shape. We may not see or control circumstances ahead. Nevertheless, we press on believing that God is with us. The hymn ends with the hope that in performing our work with joy, we will experience a closer walk with God.
Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go (The United Methodist Hymnal, #438)
Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go,
my daily labour to pursue;
thee, only thee, resolved to know
in all I think or speak or do.
The task thy wisdom hath assigned,
O let me cheerfully fulfill;
in all my works thy presence find,
and prove thy good and perfect will.
Thee may I set at my right hand,
whose eyes mine in-most substance see,
and labour on at thy command,
and offer all my works to thee.
For thee delightfully employ
what e’er thy bounteous grace hath given;
and run my course with even joy,
and closely walk with thee to heaven.
Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
Music: John Hatton
Tune: DUKE STREET, Meter: LM
1 Carlton Young, Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993), 348.
2 See www.hymnary.org
Judith Laoyan-Mosomos is the Director for Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
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