"A CHILD’S EVENING PRAYER"
"…For so He giveth His beloved sleep" (Ps. 127.2)
INTRO.: A song which talks about God giving His beloved little ones sleep is "A Child’s Evening Prayer." The text was written and the tune was composed both by W. T. Giffe, which I assume is the same as William Thomas Giffe, who was born on June 28, 1848, at Portland, IN. After growing up in College Corners, Jay County, IN, near Portland, he served in the army during the closing days of the American Civil War, after which he attended Liber College and studied law for two years. While a student in college, he participated in the glee club and took lessons in the college music school. Later, he studied with such eminent singing teachers as J. W. Suffern, George Root, Luther Emerson, Horatio Palmer, and Henry S. Perkins.
With a fine baritone voice, Giffe was much in demand as a concert singer, and soon became popular as a chorus director and convention conductor as well. His first book for singing schools, the New Favorite, sold thousands of copies. Also he produced A Practical Course in Harmony and Musical Composition. The Oliver Ditson Co. of Boston, MA, published many of his early works, but he went on to found his own publishing house, the Home Music Company, of Logansport, IN, where he also edited the Home Music Journal for several years and became supervisor of music in the public schools. In addition, he was one of three men selected to deliver an address at Logansport during the memorial service for assissinated President William McKinley.
One of the major hymnbooks edited by Giffe was The Brilliant in 1874. I have been able to find no further information on the background, date, or source of origin for this hymn. Cyberhymnal lists another hymn, "I’ll Not Give Up the Bible," with both words and music by Giffe, from The Seed Sower, A Collection of Songs for Sunday Schools and Gospel Meetings, edited by A. F. Myers and published by the W. W. Whitney Co. of Toledo, OH, in 1897. Also, the Christian Hymnal published in 1959 by the Church of God in Christ Mennonite of Moundridge, KS, includes a song, "Sweet Is the Story," with words by Elisha A. Hoffman and music by Giffe. Giffe and his wife Nancy had no children, and he died on July 13, 1926, at Seattle, WA.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "A Child’s Evening Prayer" appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1965 Christian Hymnsongs edited by Albert E. Brumley. Today it may be found in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat (who changed the opening line to "Father, wilt Thou guard"). The 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns has a different but similar song with the same title and meter by Homer F. Morris.
The song asks the Lord to bless us as we sleep.
I. Stanza 1 is a request for the Lord to guard us
"Jesus, wilt Thou guard the slumber Of a little child like me?
Wilt Thou watch in darkness o’er me, That protected I may be?"
A. God created us so that we need slumber to rest our bodies: Eccl. 5.12
B. Every Christian is a child of God: 1 Jn. 3.1
C. Therefore, each Christian should look to the Lord to watch over and protect him: Ps. 121.1-6
II. Stanza 2 is an expression of trust in the Lord
"Yes, I know that Thou wilt keep me, So I close my weary eyes,
Trusting Thee to guard my slumber ‘Neath Thy gracious, sheltering skies."
A. We can know Him whom we have believed to keep us and what we have committed to Him: 2 Tim. 1.12
B. Therefore, we trust Him to guard us: Ps. 37.3-6
C. The same power will watch over and care for us that created the gracious, sheltering skies under which we sleep: Gen. 1.6-8
III. Stanza 3 is a plea for the Lord’s presence
"In Thine arms, O Jesus, fold me; Let me be Thy little lamb.
Close unto Thy bosom hold me; Give me slumber deep and calm."
A. Being in the arms of the Lord is indicative of a close, personal relationship: Deut. 33.27
B. Just as little lambs are carried in the shepherd’s arms, so as Christians we are God’s lambs to be carried by the Lord: Lk. 15.4-5, Jn. 10.16
C. Therefore, His lambs can be given a slumber deep and calm because they the peace of God in their hearts: Col. 3.15
CONCL.: You might be interested in seeing Morris’s hymn and comparing the two.
1. "Jesus, tender Shepherd, lead me; Bless Thy little lamb tonight.
Through the darnkess be Thou near me; Keep me safe till morning light."
2. "All this day Thy hand hast led me, And I thank Thee for Thy care;
Thou hast clothed me, warmed me, led me; Listen to my evening prayer."
3. "May my love be always for Thee; Bless the friends I love so well.
Take me, when I die, to heaven, Happy there with Thee to dwell."
It is obvious that "A Child’s Evening Prayer" was written for children, and most of our books put it in the section of hymns for children. Some people have objected to using hymns like this in a public worship service because, they say, it is simply a children’s song. However, Jesus teaches that we must all be converted and become a little children to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:1-3). Perhaps we can think of songs such as this in those terms when we sing them. All children of God should have a child-like faith and trust in the heavenly Father that will lead us each evening as we pillow our heads to say "A Child’s Evening Prayer."