"COME, MY SOUL, THY SUIT PREPARE"
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16)
INTRO.: A hymn that encourages us to come boldly to the throne of grace in prayer through the mediatorship of our High Priest, Jesus Christ, is "Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare" (# 613 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by John Newton (1725-1807). Based on Solomon’s request in his dream of 2 Ki. 3:5-9, it was first published with seven stanzas in the Olney Hymns, Book One, compiled by Newton and William Cowper. Many tunes have been used or suggested with it. The one, (Hendon) composed by Henri Cesar Abraham Malan, found in the majority of denominational hymnbooks is most commonly associated in our books with William Hammond’s "Lord, We Come Before Thee Now." Some books set it to a tune (Vienna, Ravenna, or St. Boniface) that was composed by Justin Heinrich Knecht, who was born on Sept. 30, 1752, at Biberach, Germany. After he had gained a classical education at the college of the convent in Esslingen, where he also learned to play a number of orchestral instruments and studied organ with a teacher who introduced him to the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philip Telemann, and George Frederich Handel, he served for a time as professor of literature at Biberach.
However, in 1792 Knecht gave up that position to become organist and musical director of the town, where he became a pioneer in the use of program notes, which he introduced in 1790 for his orchestral concerts. With J. F. Christmann he coedited Vollstandige Sammlung Choralmelodien, which contained 97 melodies of his own, including this one with J. A. Schlegel’s "Ohne Rast und unverweilt." Knecht’s other compositions consist of works for the stage, incidental music for plays, vocal selections, and pieces for choir. In 1807, he became director of the court and theater orchestra in Stuttgart but resigned two years later, due to criticism and the realization that he did not have the proper qualifications, and spent the rest of his life in Biberach, where he died in 1817. Another tune (Guisborough) that can be used was composed by C. T. Bowen (1833-????).
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the words only appeared in the original editions of Hymns for Worship (with the suggestion to use the tune either with "Savior, Teach Me" or "When My Love to Christ Grows Weak"); in the Revised edition, the text was altered by Craig A. Roberts and a new tune was composed by editor R. J. Stevens and Richard L. Morrison Jr. This version was copyrighted in 1994. Several attempts have been made to "update" the language. Lutheran Worship has "Come, My Soul, with Every Care." Hymns for the Living Church has "Come, My Soul, Your Plea Prepare." The editor of the latter wrote, "The original first line, ‘Come, my soul, your [actually, "Thy," WSW] suit prepare," suggests that prayer is like a lawyer’s argument in court; the present version retains the imagery and may be easier to understand." Personally, I doubt it. In "Lord, We Come Before Thee Now," we still sing, "O do not our suit disdain;" everyone seems to know what this is saying without any problem, and no one has thought it necessary to "update" it.
The song obviously exhorts Christians to pray and also makes several requests as in a prayer.
I. Stanza 1 tells us to pray
"Come, my soul, thy suit prepare; Jesus loves to answer prayer.
He Himself has bid thee pray, Therefore, will not say thee nay."
A. The word "suit" in this sense is defined as "an act of suing, pleading." The word "sue" is defined as "to appeal to, petition." This is exactly what prayer is, making our requests made known to God: Phil. 4:6
B. Apparently, some object to the idea that "Jesus loves to answer prayer." Roberts changed it to "God the Father answers prayer." Everyone agrees that we are to address the Father in prayer: Matt. 6:9. However, Jesus and the Father are one: Jn. 17:21. And Jesus is our Mediator with the Father: 1 Tim. 2:5. Therefore, whatever answer God would give us in prayer, that is the answer of Jesus as well
C. Many also object to the thought that He "Therefore, will not say thee nay." I can hear people saying even now, "But the Bible definitely teaches that in answering a prayer sometimes the Lord will say no" (as with Paul: 2 Cor. 12:8-9). Several books change this to "Therefore will not turn away." However, I do not think that Newton was saying that God will never answer no, but that He "will not say thee nay," i.e., "you cannot pray" (which is precisely what the alteration is saying) because His ears are always open to the prayers of the righteous: 1 Pet. 3:12
II. Stanza 2 reminds us that we are coming to a King
"Thou art coming to a King; Large petitions with thee bring,
For His grace and power are such, None can ever ask too much."
A. The one before whom we bow in prayer is a King: Ps. 10:16 (this is true of both the Father whom we address and the Son through whom we come before Him)
B. Therefore, we should bring large petitions with us, as He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think: Eph. 3:20-21
C. The fact is that God, through His grace and power, is able to supply all our needs: Phil. 4:19
III. Stanza 3 asks the Lord to remove our sin
"With my burden I begin; Lord, remove this load of sin.
Let Thy blood, for sinners spilt, Set my conscience free from guilt."
A. Even Christians have to deal with the burden of sin: 1 Jn. 1:8
B. However, as God’s children, we can ask Him in prayer to remove our sin: Acts 8:22
C. This is because the blood of Christ was spilt (some object to the word "spilt" with reference to Christ’s blood, but the term simply means shed) for the remission of sins: Matt. 26:28
IV. Stanza 4 seeks the Lord’s rest
"Lord, I come to Thee for rest; Take possession of my breast.
(The Lutherans apparently did not like this so they altered it to:
"Lord, your rest to me impart; Take possession of my heart.")
There Thy blood bought right maintain, And without a rival reign."
A. Jesus invites us to come to Him for rest: Matt. 11:28-30
B. We can easily understand the figurative nature of this request. The Biblical heart is not the blood pump, but as the physical heart is in the breast, the term "breast" can be used figuratively of the Biblical heart to which we give Christ possession by faith and confession: Rom. 10:9-10 (Roberts changed this to read, "Dwell forever in my breast")
C. We must allow Him to reign there without a rival by sanctifying Him as Lord in our hearts: 1 Pet. 3:15
V. Stanza 5 desires the Lord’s guidance
"While I am a pilgrim here, Let Thy love my spirit cheer;
As my Guide, my Guard, my Friend, Lead me to my journey’s end."
A. We must recognize that we are but pilgrims here on earth: 1 Pet. 2:11
B. As such, we can let the love of Him who has overcome the world give our spirits good cheer: Jn. 16:13
C. Also, because He is our Guide, Guard, and Friend, we look to Him to lead us to our journey’s end, just as a sheep looks to its shepherd to lead it: Ps. 23:1-2
VI. Stanza 6 requests the Lord’s strength to renew us
"Show me what I have to do; Every hour my strength renew.
Let me live a life of faith; Let my die Thy people’s death."
A. Even though our outward man is perishing, our inner man can have its strength renewed day by day: 2 Cor. 4:16
B. In order to have the Lord to renew our strength, we must walk by faith: 2 Cor. 5:7
C. And if we walk by faith in righteousness, we will be able to die the death of the righteous: Num. 23:10
CONCL.: The omitted stanza, actually #5, is as follows:
"As the image in the glass Answers the beholder’s face,
Thus unto my heart appear; Print Thine own resemblance there."
Even though Jehovah God is the King of the universe, He wants to have a personal relationship with human beings. Therefore, He has made it possible for each one of us to be in fellowship with Him and to be able to communicate with Him in prayer through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ. As a result of this great blessing, I can say to my soul, "Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare."