Today’s hymn is a really lovely collection of sentiments of religious devotion. It’s a sampling of the kinds of hopes and yearnings a devout Christian might experience, and when read/sung with a prayerful attitude, there’s a lot in these lyrics that can resonate with us.
The first verse is a nice illustration of this:
Lord, accept our true devotion.
Let thy Spirit whisper peace.
Swell our hearts with fond emotion,
And our joy in thee increase.
Never leave us, never leave us.
Help us, Lord, to win the race.
If we take the verse as a whole, it sounds as if “win[ning] the race” is achieved by accomplishing the four things listed above–the Lord accepts our devotion, we feel at peace through the Spirit, we feel fond emotions, and we find greater joy in the Lord. If that’s the case, notice how internal all of this is! These are not objective markers that can be witnessed by the world. “Win[ning] the race” is about who we become as people.
If we further examine these four phrases, we might also notice that they’re each external to us. We perform “devotion,” but we hope that the Lord will accept it, which is outside of our control. We pray for the Spirit to give us peace, and for the Lord to change out hearts.
All of the things listed here take the Lord’s help, and that’s why our posture in heaven, once we’ve won the goal, is not preening or self-congratulation, but praise:
That on resurrection morning
We may rise at peace with thee,
Ever praising, ever praising,
Throughout all eternity
This hymn is a testament to how our journey home is so completely intertwined with God’s help.
But is there anything praiseworthy about needing so much help? Why should our weakness be a source of praise? Because God wants to help us, and if our lives were not structured in weakness, we wouldn’t have a relationship with the Savior. People who don’t need saving can’t be saved, and don’t have saviors. The kind of relationship we hope to build with the Lord requires complete dependence on him, and because he glories in that process, who are we to begrudge it? Self-sufficiency is never cause for rejoicing, and the sooner we sacrifice our vain ambitions to be independent and self-sufficient, the sooner we’ll find ourselves praising along our path.