Hymns & Songs

Seeing God more clearly and living our lives purposefully

Apr 2010    

Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see y cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

George Croly, 1867

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT in the lives of God’s people? For many of us, we may quote the line of Jesus – that the Holy Spirit will be our counsellor, “teaching [us] all things and will remind [us] of everything Jesus has said”. (John 14:26, Luke 12:12).

An equally valid and important role of the Holy Spirit is giving us power “to be witnesses for Jesus in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

Unfortunately in our present time, it would appear that some are captivated by the Holy Spirit as a force to be displayed as a badge of honour like in some characters of the Star Wars movie series or an automated transaction machine (ATM) of blessing and power much like the story of Simon the sorcerer asking Peter to give him the Holy Spirit, so that “everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit”. (Acts 8:19).

In the midst of widespread latitudinarianism within the church of 19th century England, a conservative Irish minister, George Croly (1780-1860), wrote this hymn delineating the relationship of the Holy Spirit to Christians.

Note that the focus has very little to do with whimsical subjective desires of the believer but everything to do with how the Holy Spirit is to help the person live out the Christian life. What struck me most is this stanza,

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Sadly in many instances that we pray at the present time, we pray with much expectancy that our prayers will be answered in our favour and that our problems are solved immediately.

How often are we willing to ask the Spirit of God to teach us the patience of unanswered prayer?

To do so in our current Christian spirituality is like admitting that our prayers lack that “faith engine” that can move mountains or that we are unrighteous since we are reminded, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”. (James 5:16).

It seems to me that Christian spirituality of the present times equates answered prayer as an authentication of our faith. Yet in reality, we know that we do not always get what we asked God for.

Does that make the person whose prayer was not answered any less faithful to God?

So what do we seek when we ask the Spirit of God to minister to us or through us? Here, Croly aptly wrote,

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstacies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Indeed what matters most is not the dramatic manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit or how our prayers are dramatically answered but how we can see God more clearly and live our lives purposefully.

Finally, may we use Croly’s last stanza as a personal prayer of dedication,

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

Let it be said that our love for God is not utilitarian but agape-based, that it is sacrificial as in self-surrender in that our heart becomes an altar for the worship of God, a cradle for the loving flame of the Holy Spirit to warm our world.

REACH OUT

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