One of the prayers offered during worship is the prayer for illumination. It is a prayer for God’s Spirit to act through the reading and preaching of Scripture. It is offered both for the preacher and the congregation, and is either said or sung.
One hymn in the United Methodist Hymnal (UMH) that was written for the purpose of being sung as a prayer for illumination is UMH 596, “Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word”. Originally written in German in 1663, it was translated into English in 1858 and entered the UMH in 1935.
Stanza 1 reminds us of the importance of gathering as a people of God to listen to His word. Chapter eight of the book of Nehemiah narrates how the people gathered to listen to Ezra reading the word of God. The Levites also expounded on the word as the people continued to listen. In the New Testament, we see how large crowds gathered, eager and hungry to hear Jesus. In like manner, we listen to the preacher to enlighten us about God’s word.
The second stanza expresses a tinge of humility. That is if we acknowledge that Jesus, and not our own efforts, brings out the good in us.
Stanza 3 speaks of God revealing Himself to us. In response, we are to keep our lips, ears and hearts open to be illumined and receive the Spirit’s leading.
Although it may not be familiar to most, this hymn calls us to prepare ourselves to listen so that our hearts may be receptive to what the Lord has to say and teach us while we worship Him.
Blessed Jesus, at Your Word (UMH 596)
Blessed Jesus, at your word
we are gathered all to hear you.
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
now to seek and love and fear you.
By your gospel pure and holy,
teach us, Lord, to love you solely.
All our knowledge, sense, and sight
lie in deepest darkness shrouded,
till your Spirit breaks our night
with your beams of truth unclouded.
You alone to God can win us;
you must work all good within us.
Glorious Lord, yourself impart;
Light of Light, from God proceeding,
open lips and ears and heart;
help us by your Spirit’s leading.
Hear the cry your church now raises;
Lord, accept our prayers and praises.
Words: Tobias Clausnitzer, 1663; trans. Catherine Winkworth, 1858
Music: Johann R. Ahle, 1664
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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