Hymn text by Anne Steele, 1716-1778. View the full text of this hymn.

Candles

I’m not sure I’ve ever actually heard this hymn. The lyrics suggest that it would be most appropriately sung at the end of day, as one is preparing for sleep. Since we rarely have church meetings right before bed, it comes as no surprise that it’s not in the devotional Top 40. If you, like me, are not familiar with this song, you can hear it in the LDS Music Library.

When I find an unfamiliar hymn like this, I like to read it through a couple times and look for the phrases that draw me in. I find that often, there’s something that resonates (or should resonate) with my own life. As I wrote this article, I found myself asking lots of questions. I hope you’ll take the time to consider some of them. Let’s examine a few phrases.

Oh, let thy mercy tune my tongue
And fill my heart with lively praise.

Usually we speak of “tuning” a musical instrument, yet here it is applied more broadly. I don’t believe that the author was pleading that God would help us sing in tune with the organ, much though she might appreciate it. Rather, the text imagines our every word as music, a hymn unto God. This extends beyond the duration of this hymn; in every word and deed, we strive to act as Christ would do. If God were to “tune your tongue,” how would your speech change? Would you be more kind and patient? Would you be quicker to express gratitude? How could your day-to-day speech be brought more in tune with God?

[...] And ev’ry onward rolling hour
Are monuments of wondrous grace
And witness to thy love and pow’r.

Is “every onward rolling hour” of your day a testament to God’s grace? Does your life constantly witness of God’s love and power? I’m reminded of Alma 37:36, where Alma counsels his son:

Let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord

We’ve probably all known a child (or an adult) with an obsession. I have a two-year-old daughter who loves hats. Everything she sees is evaluated based on its potential to be a hat. Crocheted hats are wonderful. Baby blankets work just fine. Even dirty dishrags work pretty well as a hat, it turns out. Pants can be hats. Shirts can be hats. If it’s made of cloth and is not too heavy, it can probably be a hat.

In the same way, our thoughts can be centered around the Lord. We can evaluate everything we do against the Light of Christ. We can consider how our words and our actions reflect the covenants we have made. This need not be a paralyzing over-evaluation, but simply a constant acknowledgement of our eternal purpose. As we strive to center our thoughts around Him, we will find that it becomes easier with time—eventually, such thoughts can become habit.

With hope in thee mine eyelids close;
[...] And wake with praises to thy name.

We’ve been counseled to begin and end each day with prayer. If “all our thoughts” are to be directed unto the Lord, there’s no point in waiting until we roll out of bed for our morning prayer to start. What do you think about when you wake up? What is the “natural state” of your thoughts, the place where they go when you don’t have anything else to think about? I hope that someday, my thoughts will naturally turn to Him of their own accord. Our thoughts can be trained; that which we think about most will continue to fill our thoughts, but we can choose to redirect them and to build habits of thought.

This hymn reminds us that when our priorities are in order, our thoughts will naturally turn to God. Have we not covenanted to “stand as witnesses of God, at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in?” What better way to fulfill that promise than to make our every thought centered around Him?

Image Credit: magnuscanis, Candles, 2003 via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

One comment on “Hymn #164: Great God, to Thee My Evening Song”

    BJ, I just love your postings on the hymns. Deep thought and deep feelings are evident in your analyses. The message is always about bringing our hearts closer to Christ. Thanks!

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