This remarkable hymn (1779) comes from the pen of that remarkable man, John Newton (1725-1807). It’s a beautiful poem about how the Lord afflicts us that he might comfort us.

The song can be used with any tune in Long Meter (88 88). We recently sang the hymn at our church using the tune O Waly, Waly, which was the tune used at T4G 12.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

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11 thoughts on “I Asked the Lord That I Might Grow”

  1. anonymous says:

    “These inward trials I employ, from self, and pride, to set thee free; and break thy schemes of earthly joy, that thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

    amen via song also : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfTZPf02Juw

    I sing for joy in my remorse; a well within prosperity’s curse; that drowns the mighty oak of pride but feeds the root of God inside…In You I find my rest; In You I find my death; In You I find my all and my emptiness; somehow it all makes sense…In You I’m rich when I’ve been made poor; comfort found when I mourn; the prideful one You see from afar; Drawing near to low, broken hearts.

  2. Nick F. says:

    Don’t forget the Indellible Grace version!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cnEDUMfPXs

  3. This is why praying for holiness is dangerous.

  4. anaquaduck says:

    The nicer side of suffering is seeing what good things it can produce. A change of heart or attitude, a re evaluation…

    His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.

    William Cowper, 1774. God moves in mysterious ways

    There are so many beautiful old hymns that we can learn from.

  5. Rose says:

    I wonder why it was “thy worm”? I am familiar with the Bible teaching that men may be despised like worms, that they are from dust and will return to dust, but to describe one of God’s children as his “worm” does not sound Scriptural to me.

  6. I love this hymn. A great arrangement/rendition of it can be found on this CD of Newton’s Olney hymns, by Todd Murray. This song is set to the same tune as the traditional version of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

    Also, Rose: I imagine Newton self-addressed as a “worm” because of how he saw himself as sinful in the light of God’s holiness. Anyone who has honestly considered his own sinfulness in that same light has shared that sentiment. As for it being Scriptural, two texts come to mind. David describes himself that way in Psalm 22:6, which is especially interesting in light of the Messianic context (cf. 22:1). But perhaps even more pertinent, God Himself speaks of Israel this way in Isaiah 41:14, highlighting man’s own weakness but God’s strength in coming to their aid.

  7. Rose says:

    Thanks, Mike, I looked at both those passages, but I don’t get the sense that gets into the hymn from either of them. In Psalm 22 what is being described is the reaction of other people to the psalmist, which, of course, is Messianic. I don’t think the psalm is enjoining us to think of ourselves or other men that way. In fact, the very phrase, “I am a worm and not a man,” makes clear that men are not worms. The passage in Isaiah, indeed, speaks of Israel’s smallness and weakness and filth, but the point of that passage is to demonstrate how God lifts us out of the mire and places us in a very high position, though we do not deserve it. Using the “worm” language in our hymns makes me think that on some level we actually prefer the mud. I don’t think it is a healthy or scriptural psychology.

  8. Stephen Mixon says:

    I think he uses the expression “thy worm to death” artistically to describe how he, Newton, felt about himself. It sounds almost sarcastic. He is in a sense asking God, instead of making me holy, as I so earnestly asked you, are you now to drive me into the ground and kill me? I don’t think Newton is arguing for a new view of us being wormlike, but rebuking our view of Christian growth. Namely, sanctification is not something I turn on and off, but that God employs for His children the way he sees fit. Always for our good!!

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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