From Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Minister of Music and Organist at St. Bede, Forest Grove.
The scripture, Luke 4:1-13, the well-known story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, provides the foundation for the Lenten hymn, “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days.” The hymn is unique because it is one that directly recounts Jesus’ temptation story with the express intention to encourage us by example in our ongoing personal battle with temptation in the wilderness of our conflicting desires. And, most notably, the title and content of this hymn place us firmly in the season of Lent and allude to its prescription for the mindful practice of the spiritual discipline of these penitential days.
It’s always interesting what one can discover when studying hymnology. Amazingly, I discovered this hymn text was written originally for children by Claudia Frances Hernaman in 1873. Claudia was the daughter of the Vicar of Edwinstow, at age 20 became the wife of Rev. J.W.D. Hernaman and was steeped in scripture from an early age.
Mrs. Hernaman’s creative interests focused on children and, in the course of her life, she wrote a total of 150 children’s hymns. This particular hymn first appeared in her book, The Child’s Book of Praise (A Manual of Devotion in Simple Verse) published in 1875, and was written to teach children the story behind the Lenten season and what the season should mean for them as young Christians.
This hymn may have been written in the 19th-century for children, but in this 21st-century, I think you’ll agree with me that it is a hymn for all Christians – young Christians, new Christians, and mature Christians alike.
1 Lord, who throughout these forty days
for us did fast and pray,
teach us with you to mourn our sins
and close by you to stay.
2 As you with Satan did contend,
and did the victory win,
O give us strength in you to fight,
in you to conquer sin.
3 As you did hunger and did thirst,
so teach us, gracious Lord,
to die to self, and so to live
by your most holy Word.
4 And through these days of penitence,
and through your Passiontide,
forevermore, in life and death,
O Lord, with us a bide.
5 Abide with us, that through this life
of doubts and hope and pain,
an Easter of unending joy
we may at last attain!
During this Lenten season we will sing many hymns of our faith, telling our story, encouraging our witness, and reveling in the glory of our Lord.
I close with a prayer for Lent from May Kay Beall’s devotion collection, Singing in the Spirit…
“It’s about hearing the story again…
for the very first time.
It’s about walking where You walked.
It’s about touching Your robe
and feeling Your power surge through us.
It’s about feeling Your fear and Your pain on the cross
and knowing it was for us You died.
It’s about basking in the sunshine
of Your love and forgiveness.
It’s about holding out our empty hands
and receiving the costly and generous gift of your