I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Monday, May 9, 2016


Warning – Use this song with discretion.
Most of our hymnbooks contain songs that were written by people of weak, questionable, or downright heretical theological beliefs and I have featured several of them on the basis of their doctrinal accuracy and merit. 

 I took some heat the morning I featured this song.  I knew the author was a heretic and a false teacher.  He was a leading personality in the liberal, theological movement known as Modernism.  He was responsible for the propagation a lot of misleading, unbiblical, and damnable doctrine that resulted in a massive exodus of many Baptists, from the Northern Baptist Convention in the early 1900s.
Nevertheless, this hymn is not a reflection of the man's doctrine; it is sound and useful on its own merit, regardless of its origin. Like the old adage goes, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

I deliberately avoided shining any attention on Fosdick other than to simply name him and to put the song in its historical context because I didn't think it would be helpful to unnecessarily stir up irrelevant controversy.

This hymn is a prayer that asks God to save us from the “fears that long had bound us” and to “free our hearts to faith and praise.” 

It is natural for us to be discouraged and fearful, and to doubt that we can face evil when it seems like it’s all around us.   In those difficult times, we are often tempted to retreat, to keep quiet, and to wait for the evil to blow over.  

But evil never blows over, it must be opposed.  And It usually takes real sacrifices of dedicated and courageous men and women to stand for God’s Truth and Righteousness against an evil world.

I thought America, in the 1970s, was pretty bad but we are now living in terrible fearful times of great moral depravity, lawlessness, and spiritual wickedness in high places like I have not seen in MY lifetime.  Trouble is all around us.  There are real threats to our nation, our culture, and our lives so this hymn of petition seems appropriate today, "Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of THIS hour." 

That is a timeless petition because there is never a time when we don’t need God's help "for the facing of this hour."

The song was written by Harry Emerson Fosdick.  He was ordained in 1903 as a Baptist minister.  John D. Rockefeller enlisted him to serve as pastor of a new, liberal church that he was building; the Riverside Church, near Harlem. 

Fosdick wrote the hymn, GOD OF GRACE AND GOD OF GLORY, in 1930, to be sung at the opening day service of the new church.  And it wasn’t because of the hardships he would face in the startup of a new church.  The petition was for grace and courage through troublesome times.  

The “hour” that THEY were facing, at that time, was foreboding.  It was the Great Depression – a terrible economic disaster that had drained lives and hopes out of a nation that had already experience moral decadence, lawlessness, and wickedness for a decade before. 

The song was an appropriate prayer for them then, and it is a good prayer for us today.


God of grace and God of glory,
On Thy people pour Thy power.
Crown Thine ancient church’s story,
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo! the hosts of evil ’round us,
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

Set our feet on lofty places,
Gird our lives that they may be,
Armored with all Christ-like graces,
In the fight to set men free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
That we fail not man nor Thee,
That we fail not man nor Thee.

Save us from weak resignation,
To the evils we deplore.
Let the search for Thy salvation,
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving Thee Whom we adore,
Serving Thee Whom we adore.


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