The Second Lesson for our service on September 27th, was James 5:13-16, known in some commentaries as the Prayer of Faith. This compelling scripture was followed by our Sequence Hymn, “If thou but trust in God to guide thee.” Dare we call this hymn the Hymn of Faith? Observing the distinct parallels between the scripture and the hymn, the words of James were illuminated and brought to life by our singing of this beloved hymn.
The hymn and hymn tune were written and composed by Georg Neumark in 1621 following a particularly trying time in his life. As he writes, “Which good fortune coming suddenly, and as if fallen from heaven, greatly rejoiced me, and on that very day I composed to the honour of my beloved Lord the here and there well-known hymn ‘Wer nur den lieben Gott least walten’; and had certainly cause enough to thank the Divine compassion for such unlooked for grace shown to me.”
Neumark’s hymn text exhorts us “Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving.” James asks and answers the questions, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Neumark continues, “And trust his word, though undeserving; thou yet shalt find it true for thee; God never yet forsook in need the soul that trusted him indeed.” Our scripture tells us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Our service continued on that Sunday morning with the sermon, the Eucharist, another hymn, and finally the announcements. At the end of the usual round of announcements, a new member stood with what at first appeared to be tears of fear and trembling to inform the congregation of something overwhelming. As it happened, those tears were tears of joy and thanksgiving and her announcement was not one of overwhelming sadness, but a testimony to faith, to the might of prayer, and to God’s grace, love, and healing power.
As James says in Chapter 5, verse 15 “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.”
As Neumark put into poetry those words of scripture,
“If thou but trust in God to guide thee, and hope in him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength whate’er betide thee, and bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love builds on a rock that nought can move.”