Dr. Mack Wilberg has written a new arrangement of the American Folk Hymn entitled “My Song in the Night” which is hauntingly beautiful. I have tried to do some research online regarding its origin and history, and came up a bit empty-handed. However, the text to this hymn is particularly haunting. The words invoke an attitude of deep personal pleading:
My Song In The Night
O Jesus, my Savior, my song in the night
Come to us with Thy tender love, my souls’ delight,
Unto Thee O Lord in affliction I call,
My comfort by day and my song In the night.
O why should I wander an alien from Thee,
Or cry in the desert Thy face to see,
My comfort and joy, my souls’ delight,
O Jesus my Savior, my song in the night
The text of this hymn most certainly takes inspiration from the following scriptures:
“I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with my own heart, and my spirit made diligent search.”- Psalm 77:6
“Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?” – Job 35:10
For Latter-day Saints, one of the beloved scriptures regarding the divine purpose of music is found in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 25.This is a written record of the priesthood blessing that Emma Smith, wife of the prophet Joseph received in Harmony, Pennsylvania during July of 1830. Emma is praised for her character and devotion, and she is given words of personal encouragement and comfort.Emma is also instructed to compile the first hymnal of the Church, with an added explanation of the importance:
“For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” – vs.12
It is particularly touching to think of song as a prayer. It stands to reason that raising our voices in prayer is a heavenly form of communication – and becomes a silent song to our God. Likewise, raising our voices in song becomes a musical form of communion. As the lyrics above state, song is a human “delight”. I submit that music is also an intrinsic need of our souls. We were born to sing. And in turn, the Lord will commune with us by sending His own song in response.
How do we spiritually sing to our God? There are many ways. The scriptures give several good points of departure.
1. To give thanks for all things:
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children…For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light…speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord: giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” - Ephesians 5:1, 8, 19-20
2. To express joy even in affliction:
“Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.”
3. To acknowledge the Lord’s hand in our lives daily:
“O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.” – Psalm 96:1-2
These are such beautiful verses. Each poetic and tuneful in their own right. Indeed, by internalizing these words and pondering them are we not already experiencing a “song of the heart”?
Singing is such a personal form of expression. No two voices are alike. Alone, one voice can penetrate a dark night, and make it bearable. And when music and voices are combined they can become a powerful force to be reckoned with. Joshua’s army of trumpets and voices brought down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6). The prayer and songs of Paul & Silas brought down their prison walls (Acts 16)!
What symbolic “walls” could a song and prayer of our hearts bring down for each of us? Indeed, I believe the song-full prayers of our hearts have unimaginable healing power.
The imagery of Night is important in this particular American Hymn. Night is a time when souls often feel the most forlorn and forgotten. Having spent many sleepless nights in a hospital near my daughter’s bedside, I can attest that pain, sorrow and loneliness are prolonged at an agonizing pace. Depression also runs deepest in the dark hours. We know that suicide claims multitudes before the hope of dawn. It is not by mere chance that Satan himself is called the “Prince of Darkness”. Surely, his power and work runs most rampant through the midnight hours. Indeed, the dark embodies Fear itself.
Yet, we are told that the Savior will be our song in the night. What a beautiful promise! He sings to our soul during times of the greatest distress. He lifts us through the fog and mist. The divine power of music can bring a peace that “surpasses all understanding”. Music brings comfort. Music is hope. Music penetrates directly into our hearts and deepest corners of our souls. I have personally experienced this more times than I could possibly count. A song can truly bring the Spirit of Christ into a room with immediacy, and unlike any other force. Once the Spirit of Christ has entered, He is the Light. And where there is Light, no Darkness can dwell.
“I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with my own heart, and my spirit made diligent search.” Ps. 77:6
Perhaps we should therefore rejoice in the nighttime’s of our lives! For it is when we are submersed into the darkest places of our heart that we are then prepared to ‘diligently search’ for, recognize, and embrace the Light.
An anonymous American hymn testifies this truth to us;
“My comfort and joy, my souls’ delight,
O Jesus my Savior, my Song in the Night!”
This post was updated 10/3/2011 – MoSop