WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS                                       written in 1855

The Story

Not far from Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, 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, 1855.” Above that inscription are the words to this hymn.

Joseph Scriven, its author, was a man who had experienced the friendship of Jesus through a life filled with personal tragedy.

When Joseph 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”.

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

Later, when Joseph himself was ill, a visiting friend noticed this hymn scribbled on a small piece of scratch paper near his bed. Joseph’s friend asked him if he wrote the hymn. Joseph answered, “Well, not completely. The Lord and I did it between us.”

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – enjoy Jesus as your best Friend.

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 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 your friends despise, forsake you?  Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will 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.


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