Power of prayer
In themselves, as weak as worms,
How can poor believers stand,
When temptations, foes, and storms,
Press them close on every hand?
Weak, indeed, they feel they are,
But they know the throne of grace;
And the God who answers prayer
Helps them when they seek his face.
Though the Lord awhile delay,
Succour they at length obtain;
He who taught their hearts to pray,
Will not let them cry in vain.
Wrestling prayer can wonders do,
Bring relief in deepest straits;
Prayer can force a passage through
Iron bars and brazen gates.
Hezekiah on his knees
Proud Assyria's host subdued;
And when smitten with disease,
Had his life by prayer renewed.
Peter, though confined and chained,
Prayer prevailed and brought him out;
When Elijah prayed, it rained,
After three long years of drought.
We can likewise witness bear,
That the Lord is still the same;
Though we feared he would not hear,
Suddenly deliverance came.
For the wonders he has wrought,
Let us now our praises give;
And by sweet experience taught,
Call upon him while we live.
from John Newton's Diary, relevant to this hymn:
3 March 1777
The long expected letter came tonight, and thy will, my Lord, seems now to determine for my removal. I trust it is not my will, independent of thine. Thou didst allow me a considerable interval for thought and prayer, and I think and hope, thou didst enable me sincerely and heartily to commit the event to thee, and to pray that except the proposal were for thy glory and service, it might be overruled. And surely I felt at opening the seal, that had it been appointed for me to continue here I should have been glad. Thou knowest the weakness, the vanity, the instability of my heart, and the multiplicity of working thoughts, hopes, fears and wishes, which have by turns arisen in my mind. Sufficient to convince me how incapable as well as unworthy of choosing for myself, and to make me cry to thee for forgiveness and guidance. But in the midst of all, I trust, my prevailing desire has been, that not my will but thine might be done. I have difficulties in prospect before me, but O be thou with me, and all shall be well. O my Sun, my Shield, my Saviour, now anoint me with fresh oil, give me faith and wisdom, employ me, and own me, and O provide for thy sheep here. And send them a faithful pastor, by whom, may it please thee to do more for them, and amongst them, than thou hast done by me.
8 March 1777
These two days chiefly taken up with running and riding about to get my testimonials signed, to be ready when called to London.
Sunday 9 March 1777
A trying day. My heart much affected with the state and grief of the people – much hurried in writing necessary letters. Yet carried through by thy mercy O my Lord. In the evening a letter from Mr Thornton gave a sudden turn to my thoughts, and seems to open away for a comfortable issue out of this trying business. May it be so, if agreeable to thy will. Save me O my Lord, out of this hurry – that I may stay and see thy blessing causing our late distress to work for good.
Tuesday 11 March 1777
An affecting evening – spoke at the Great House, being to set off in the morning, from Genesis 22. Having some hope myself, that Thou wouldst appear for us, I aimed to encourage the people to a continuance in prayer, though I durst not express myself too strongly for fear of a disappointment. Without the little hope I had of returning to them again, taking leave would have been very grievous.
27 March 1777
My gracious Lord, help me to praise, love and serve thee for Thou hast done great things for me and mine. Wednesday 12th we went to London, had a safe and pleasant journey, except my feelings about Hull, which at times were anxious and painful. But immediately upon my arrival I found relief: this cup is removed from me and Mr King appointed in my stead. Dispatched the news to my people that night, and they received it on the 13th. And now the return of the 13th March, is to supersede the annual commemoration of the 1st February. Thou hast given us a Hull Day, instead of a Cottingham Day which was growing old. Lord make us thankful and fruitful.
30 March 1777 Easter
Company in the house causes some hurry, and puts things out of their usual course, but thou didst help me, my Lord. Thou art risen indeed, and art the Resurrection and the Life of thy people. Congregations rather large, and a full sacrament. There, alas! how cold was my heart, but why say I, ‘There’, when I am every where and at all times so little affected with thy love. In the afternoon spoke with reference to tomorrow – which without thy merciful restraints, would be a day of madness and mischief. In the evening – on prayer, with a view to thy late interposition. O that we may praise and trust thee and call upon thee as long as we live. I trust the late trial has been in many instances sanctified. O may it be more so, and especially to myself.
Hymn No. 271
[On this date Newton preached from the above texts at his church, St Peter & St Paul, Olney, during the morning and afternoon services, and from this hymn at the informal evening service]