Title: Heal Us, Emmanuel, Hear Our Prayer
Author: William Cowper (26th November, 1731- 25th April, 1800)
Composer: Johann Cruger (Kruger) (1598-1662)
Finally, here is a hymn written by the ever famous, William Cowper, who is known to have partnered with John Newton in publishing the Olney Hymns in 1779 (For more on Newton, see “Amazing Grace”). This hymn was first published in the Olney Hymns as No. 14, with six stanzas of four lines each. The original title for this hymn was “Jehovah Rophi—I am the Lord that Healeth thee,” and can still be found in this original title, but only in many of the older hymnals (Prior to 1900). Though this hymn is still around today, it is not very popular, having lost most of it's popularity shortly after the beginning of the 1990's. The Author of this tune, William Cowper, was known for his simple recreations and his good friendships, but his life would be marred with tragedy throughout.
William Cowper was born in his father's rectory in Berkhampstead, London, in 1731, where he grew up. When he was only six years old, his mother passed away (he would later draw a portrait of her, and give a better description of her in one of his later works), leaving him with only a father to raise him. Cowper's father placed him in a school (the name was not given), but ultimately Cowper hated the school, and left to attend Westminster, where he was much happier. While at Westminster, Cowper succeeded in sports such as football (soccer), and cricket (a strange, but enjoyable sport). It was clear that Cowper was destined for the bar, and began preparing for it. During this time, he fell in love with his cousin, Theodora Cowper, but was forbidden to marry her by Theodora's father. Even though he was forbidden to marry her, Cowper would never forget Theodora, and she would never forget him, often times taking care of him when he was in need. As Cowper grew older, his sudden events of prolonged sadness began to increase in frequency.
In 1754, Cowper was called to the bar, and this sparked a period of nine years in which he was characterized as “Playful,” and Humorous” (http://www.hymnary.org/person/Cowper_W, Julian, John, par. 1). After he was called to the bar, Cowper spent time writing satires for The Connoisseur and the St. James Chronicles, as well as some halfpenny ballads. Unfortunately, this period of happiness would end in 1763, when Cowper received news that he had been nominated for the Clerkship of the Journals of the House of Lords. Though this was good news, Cowper was so anxious about having to appear in front of the House of Lords to be interviewed for the position, that his reason gave way to his anxieties. Cowper attempted to take his life by “Laudanum, Knife, and Cord” (an opium laced drink, a knife, and I am assuming a rope). The first two attempts were unsuccessful, but the third almost worked, leaving him mostly sedentary, and an invalid for the rest of his life. This was the first time that Cowper's delusions of life first appeared, thinking that he was being punished by God. By the treatment of the Christian Doctor, Dr. Cotton, at St. Albans, this delusion passed away, leaving him to a happy period of time for nearly eight years.
The first two years of Cowper's next period of happiness were spent in Huntingdon, and the next six were spent in Olney, where he worked closely with the poor, and did devotionals under the close guidance of John Newton. Those eight years would prove to be the most lucid and the happiest years of Cowper's life, but his misfortunes would continue. Cowper spent most of his time with Newton, who was far more than Calvinistic, which was not healthy for the more shy and reserved Cowper. A short time later, Cowper's brother passed away, leading him into another depression, and going against his Calvinistic beliefs, he thought that God was punishing him by taking his brothers life, and in turn, Cowper tried to kill himself again. This dark depression lasted nearly sixteen months, during which he lived with Newton, and was under the care of the nurse, Mrs. Unwin, of whom Cowper would become life-long friend with. Eventually, Cowper became interested in carpentry, gardening, and glazing, and took to playing with pet rabbits and a few other pets as well. Mrs. Unwin would also play a role in Cowper's poetical life.
Towards the end of 1780, Mrs Unwin suggested to Cowper that he read some serious works of poetry. This sparked Cowper's interest, and led him to publish his first major literary work in 1782. In 1783, Cowper had a short period of happiness in which two of his greatest poems, The Tash, and John Gilpin, were written (http://www.hymnary.org/person/Cowper_W, par. 1). Under the care of his Aunt, Lady Hesketh, Cowper moved away from Olney to Weston in 1786, which was another time of happiness, but this was also short lived. Shortly after his arrival in Weston, Cowper received news of the death of his good friend, William Unwin. Finally, Mrs. Unwin fell ill in a time which was called the “Five-years Illness,” which threw Cowper into even more despair. Upon her death in 1796, Cowper wrote his last poem, The Castaway, which was written as a memorial of Mrs. Unwin. Though Cowper was haunted by madness his entire life, rarely does it show in his poetry. His hymns are marked by great piety, and reflect more on peace and thankful contemplation rather than on Joy, as is the case in many other hymnals (http://www.hymnary.org/person/Cowper_W , par. 2).
The tune “Grafenberg,” was written by Johann Cruger to accompany the text “Nun Danket all” or better known as “Now Thank We All our God”, written by Paul Gerhardt. Published in Crugers 1647 collection Praxi Pietatis Melica. The tune, though unintentionally, shares a name with a water spa in Silesia, Austria, which became famous in the 1820's. For more information on Johann Cruger, see “Ah, Holy Jesus”
1. Heal us, Emmanuel, hear our prayer; we wait to feel thy touch; deep-wounded souls to thee repair, and Savior, we are such. 2. Our faith is feeble, we confess we faintly trust thy word; but wilt thou pity us the less? Be that far from thee, Lord! 3. Remember him who once applied with trembling for relief; "Lord, I believe," with tears he cried; "O help my unbelief!" 4. She, too, who touched thee in the press and healing virtue stole, was answered, "Daughter, go in peace: thy faith hath made thee whole." 5. Like her, with hopes and fears we come to touch thee if we may; O send us not despairing home; send none unhealed away.
My Take on the Hymn:
From what I can tell of this hymn, it is based off the text from Mark 5: 21-34. The text tells of a woman who was ill for nearly 12 years, and she had seen many doctors and many different physicians, but none could heal her, and she only became more sick. After touching Jesus' robes, she was healed because of her faith. If we have faith in Christ, he will heal us too. The second half of this text talks about Jesus raising a little girl back from the dead. No matter how long we have been sick, no matter how long we have been dead, Christ has the power to bring life back to us. This knowledge, paired with the history of Cowper's life, seems to me all too powerful. The idea the Cowper struggled so much through his life, but still maintained his faith, is incredible. Though he attempted to take his life, Christ saved him because he knew of Cowper's purpose, and we are thankful for that. Without Cowper, Newton may not have published his hymns, and without Newton, we may have had fewer hymns in this world. God has the power to save us, he has the power to do miracles, and he has the power to show us love beyond what we can imagine. Faith in Christ will provide healing of all ills and of all that is hurting out spirit each and every day!
Donovan, Richard Neil. "Hymns." Lectionary Hymn List: Mark 2:1-12 , Epiphany 7, Year B. Lectionary.org, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2013.
Julian, John. "Heal Us, Emmanuel, Hear Our Prayer." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2013.
Julian, John. "William Cowper." - Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2013.
Julian, John. "Johann Crüger › Tunes." - Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2013.
Psalter Hymnal Handbook. "GRÄFENBERG." Hymnary.org. Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2013.
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