Wilt thou persue thy worm to death?

John Newton, the famous slave-trader turned preacher, wrote dozens of stunning hymns, including some of our most beloved and well-known. Amazing Grace, Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, and Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder are just a few of these. His best hymns rank with the most profound and beautiful poetry of the church.

More recently, Indelible Grace has done some very good reinterpretations of old hymns, including some John Newton texts. I really enjoy their fourth album, Beams of Heaven, though I typically skip the third track, “I Asked the Lord.” Recently looking up the lyrics to this hymn, I learned it was penned by John Newton. Its text stands as a stirring reminder of the grace of God in tribulations and in answering prayers for faith. It’s also quite a contrast to the faulty thinking that assumes constant health, wealth, and blessing from the Lord.

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 power
Subdue my sins and give me rest. 

Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers 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,
Cast out my feelings, 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 mayest seek thy all in me.”

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