“My God, My Father, Though I Stray”

"Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6.10)

     INTRO.: A hymn that is based on the words of Christ in the so-called "Lord’s prayer" is "My God, My Father, Though I Stray" (#78 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Charlotte Elliot (1789-1871). It first appeared with eight stanzas in the 1834 appendix of her work The Invalid’s Hymnbook. Sometimes the first line is given as "My God and Father, while I stray," and in some books the second part of the first line is altered to "day by day." Miss Elliot was indeed an invalid but a prolific author whose best-known piece is the hymn, "Just As I Am." All of our books use a tune (Hanford or Sullivan) that was composed by Arthur Seymore Sullivan (1842-1900). It was produced in 1871 and first appeared in his 1874 Church Hymns With Tunes. This tune is also often used with another of Miss Elliot’s hymns, "Jesus, My Savior, Look on Me."  While he published several hymn tunes, the best-known of which is the melody for "Onward, Christian Soldiers," Sullivan is most famous for the music of the "Gilbert and Sullivan" operettas to the librettos of William Schwenck Gilbert.   However, in 1879 a new setting and a chorus that reads, "Thy will be done, Thy will be done" followed by the last two lines of each stanza was prepared by James McGranahan (1840-1907). It probably first appeared in either a later edition of the 1878 Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs No. 3 or the 1883 Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs No. 4 both edited by Ira D. Sankey.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     This hymn is a request that God’s will may always be done in our lives.

I. The first stanza says that we should seek to do God’s will no matter how far we may stray
"My God, my Father, though I stray Far from my home, on life’s rough way,
O teach me from my heart to say, ‘Thy will be done.’"
 A. As Christians, we can call upon God as our Father because we have been born again into His family: Jn. 3.3-5
 B. The straying here is not necessarily erring from God, but can refer to the roaming that we may be called upon to do from our original roots as we live on this earth; e.g., Paul travelled from place to place far from his home yet learned how to be content: Phil. 4.11-13
 C. But regardless of how far we may have to roam, we should always determine from our hearts to do God’s will: Eph. 6.6

II. The second stanza says that we should seek to do God’s will when our life is filled with sadness
"Though dark my path, and sad my lot, Let me be still and murmur not,
Or breathe the prayer divinely taught, ‘Thy will be done.’"
 A. Sometimes in life our path is dark and our lot is sad: Psa. 90.10
 B. However, we need to learn to be still and not murmur: Phil. 2.14-15
 C. And to do this, we need to follow the example of Jesus and pray that prayer that He, when faced with great sorrow and anguish, prayed: Matt. 26.39

III. The third stanza says that we should seek to do God’s will when we experience grief
"What though in lonely grief I sigh, For friends beloved, no longer nigh,
Submissive still would I reply, ‘Thy will be done!’”
 A. There will be times in our lives when all of us will suffer grief, often for conscience toward God: 1 Pet. 2.19
 B. One reason for this is that those who were formerly beloved friends forsake and even betray us: Lk. 21.16
 C. However, even in such times, we need to strive to be submissive to God’s will: Jas. 4.7

IV. The fourth stanza says that we should seek to do God’s will when we become faint
"If but my fainting heart be blest With Thy sweet Spirit for its guest,
My God! to Thee I leave the rest–‘Thy will be done!’”
 A. Sometimes as we travel the toilsome road of this life, we do become weary and faint: Heb. 12.3-5
 B. When this occurs, we need to look to God’s sweet Spirit, through His word, to strengthen us: Eph. 3.16
 C. Thus, we leave unto God the rest by casting all our cares upon Him: 1 Pet. 5.7

V. The fifth stanza says that we should seek to do God’s will from day to day as we live
"Renew my will from day to day; Blend it with Thine, and take away
All that now makes it hard to say, ‘Thy will be done.’
 A. With the attitude of the song, our inward man will be more ready for the renewing that we can have day by day: 2 Cor. 4.16-18
 B. But to do this, we must blend our minds with that of Jesus Christ: Phil. 2.5-8
 C. Sometimes, it may be hard to conform our minds to God’s will, but it’s absolutely essential to please God: Jn. 7.17

VI. The sixth stanza says that we should seek to do God’s will even up to death
"Then, when on earth I breathe no more The prayer oft mixed with tears before,
I’ll sing upon a happier shore, ‘Thy will be done.’"
 A. There will come a time when on earth we shall breathe no more: Heb. 9.27
 B. When that happens, the faithful child of God dies in the hope of an eternal life on a happier shore without all the tears of this earth: Rev. 21.4
 C. But we need to remember that only those who do the will of God will have a home in that wonderful place: Matt. 7.21

    CONCL.: Another stanza that is sometimes found in hymnbooks today reads:
"If Thou shouldst call me to resign What most I prize, it ne’er was mine;
I only yield Thee what was Thine; ‘Thy will be done!’”
To say, "Thy will be done," is not, or at least it should not be, just a variation of the fatalistic concept of "whatever will be will be," with the thinking that whatever happens to us must be God’s will. Rather, it is the expression of the desire that we, and others, may always seek to do God’s will in our lives. So may this ever be our attitude as we sing and pray, "My God, My Father, Though I Stray."


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