“Father, We Thank Thee”

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart….Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matt. 22:27-29)

     INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to be more loving every day both to God and man is "Father, We Thank Thee." The text of stanzas 1 and 2 is usually attributed to Rebecca J. Weston (1835-1895). I have been unable to locate any further information about this author except that she obviously lived in the nineteenth century. The most commonly used tune (Onslow or Batchellor) was composed by Daniel Batchellor, who was born on Nov. 23, 1845, somewhere in England. At some time, he emigrated to the United States. A Quaker, he produced children’s songs and musical instruction books, such as The Tonic Sol-fa Music Course for Schools with Thomas Charmbury, for the S. R. Winchell and Co. of Chicago, IL, from 1884 to 1886. "Father, We Thank Thee for the Night," with Weston’s two stanzas and Batchellor’s music, was first published around 1884 or 1885 in the Manual for Teachers and originally copyrighted by The National Sunday School Union. By 1920, Batchellor was a widower, living with his  daughter Marian and her family in Baltimore, MD. By 1930, they had moved to Washington, DC. He died on Jan. 19, 1934, at Philadelphia, PA. The text of stanza 3 was written by Helen K. Noordewier. It is dated 1949.  The only place I have ever seen this third stanza is in the 1990 Trinity Hymnal Revised edited by James W. Scott and published by Great Commission Publications of Suwanee, GA, for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America, where the text is "modernized" ("Father, we thank You…") and the Batchellor melody is said to have been arranged by E. R. B. in 1904.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song, with Weston’s two stanzas and Batchellor’s tune, appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. The two-stanza text was used with an anonymous tune of unknown origin in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today this version may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat. Both Praise for the Lord and Songs of Faith and Praise say that this melody comes from Jorgenson’s Great Songs of the Church, 1921. My only copy of Great Songs No. 1 is the 1925 edition, which does have it, but Forrest M. McCann in Hymns and History does not list it for any edition of Great Songs from 1921 to 1925, but only for the 1937 and 1975 editions (Great Songs No. 2–apparently an oversight). I have written a new text, beginning "Father, we bless Thee for the day," to fit this anonymous tune.

     The song both gives thanks to God for His blessings and asks His help in obeying His will.

I. Stanza 1 offers thanks for all that God has done for us
"Father, we thank Thee for the night, And for the pleasant morning light;
For rest and food and loving care, And all that makes the world so fair."
 A. Certainly we should be thankful to God for His goodness: 2 Sam. 22:50
 B. We can thank Him both for the night in which we can sleep and for the morning in which we can awake: Ps. 113:3
 C. And we can thank Him for food and loving care: Acts 14:17

II. Stanza 2 asks the Lord to help us be good and loving
"Help us to do the things we should, To be to others kind and good;
In all we do, in work or play, To love Thee better day by day."
(Most sources have, "To grow more loving every day.")
 A. We should surely ask the Lord to help us do the things that we should because only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven: Matt. 7:21
 B. One of those things is to be kind and good to others: Eph. 4:32
 C. Indeed, it is by keeping God’s commandments, including kindness to others, that we show how much we love God: 1 Jn. 5:3

III. Stanza 3 asks the Lord to help us obey Him in both word and deed
"Lord, keep our lips from sin today; Help us to trust and to obey.
Lord, keep our feet from evil ways, And fill our hearts with joy and praise."
 A. It is important to ask the Lord to keep our lips from sin: Ps. 141:3
 B. In fact, it should be our aim to obey the Lord in all things: Heb. 5:8-9
 C. This will include keeping our feet from evil ways because the Lord hates feet that run to mischief: Prov. 6:16-19

      CONCL.: Even though many would consider this simply a "children’s song," it would be an appropriate song to sing at the beginning of a morning worship service, as we have awakened to another day of praise, and also at the close of an evening service as we prepare for another night under God’s watchful care. But whether night or day, as we consider all the good and perfect gifts that our God has provided for us, our response should always be, "Father, We Thank Thee."


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