Classic Hymns - Lyrics and History of What a Friend We Have in Jesus

The Lyrics to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Behind The Song “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!

This popular hymn was written as a poem by Irish poet, Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886).
Joseph Scriven was born in Ireland in 1819; son of a British Royal Marines captain. He became a teacher after receiving his university degree from Trinity College in London. He fell in love and became engaged to a young lady. However, tragedy struck on the eve of their wedding when she fell from her horse while crossing River Bann and there she drowned.
In attempt to overcome his sorry, he left home and wandered. He led himself to an area near Port Hope, Canada where he became popular to the locals. He became a tutor to the children. While there, he met Elisa Roche and fell in love. They were planning to be married but tragedy struck once again. She became ill with pneumonia and died.
While surviving these tragedies in his life, he devoted the rest of his life to helping others. He would teach, preach, cut wood, and give clothes to those without means of living.
In 1855, after receiving news about his mother being very ill, he wrote a poem called “Pray Without Ceasing” in an attempt to comfort her while he was away from home. This poem is what we know now as “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”. It was never his intention for the poem to be made public, as he had written it anonymously. He received full credit for the poem in the 1880s. Shortly after, Charles Crozat Converse placed the tune, while William Bolcom created a setting of the hymn.
Joseph Scriven died in 1886 at the age of 66 by drowning. It wasn’t clear if he decided to end his life, or his death was an accident. He was buried beside his second fiancée in Bewdley, Ontario.
Today, one will find they hymn widely used in churches, as well as in the entertainment industry. The hymn had been used in the movie Driving Miss Daisy starring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd. Renditions of the hymn include those of Bing Crosby for Beloved Hymns (1951); Rosemary Clooney for Hymns from the Heart (1959); Aretha Franklin for Amazing Grace (1972); Ike & Tina Turner for The Gospel According to Ike & Tina (1974); and Brad Paisley for Play (2008), to name a few.