Not far from Port Hope, Ontario, stands a monument with this inscription; “Four miles north, in Pengally’s Cemetery, lies the philanthropist and author of this great masterpiece, written at Port Hope, 1857.” Above the inscription are the words of the beloved hymn, “What a friend We Have in Jesus.” Joseph Scriven, its author, was a man who had experienced the friendship of Jesus through a life filled with personal tragedy.

When Scriven was a young man in Ireland, his fiancee accidentally drowned on the eve of their wedding. Soon after this, he set sail for Canada. He seemed destined to live his life alone, with Jesus as his only close friend. In Canada, he determined to be a friend to those in need, and he became known as the “Good Samaritan of Port Hope.”

Scriven never intended to publish this hymn. He wrote the words to accompany a letter to his mother in Ireland when she became ill. He had no material resources to send her–only a reminder that the most perfect of friends, Jesus himself, was nearby.

Later, when Scriven himself was ill, a visiting friend noticed the hymn scribbled on scratch paper near his bed. “Did you write this?” asked the friend. “Well, not completely,” Scriven answered, “The Lord and I did it between us.”

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what need-less pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in Prayer.

Today this hymn is sung in churches around the world but I often wonder if we really believe or have even thought seriously about the words in these last two verses? Read them carefully!

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