I have been meditating all week on one of my favourite hymns – ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’.
My father taught me this hymn many years ago. It was one he loved, and he sang it often.
I was always struck by the second line of the first stanza – ‘forgive our foolish ways’, and perhaps it was this line that made me think of this hymn as one about man’s folly and God’s forgiveness. That, of course, and the title of the hymn.
But in recent days, I have begun to see this hymn in a different light. I see a hymn that calls to mind the peace of God, and the calm assurance that God gives us.
For example, when I consider the third line of the first stanza: ‘reclothe us in our rightful mind’, it reminds us that the cares of the world may take us away from the peace of mind that God gives us, and that we must turn to Him to regain our mental equilibrium. In fact, those words in the hymn were borrowed from the Bible, where they were used to describe the redeemed state of a man whom our Lord had healed from torment. (He was found, ‘clothed, and in his right mind’. The Bible story is here.)
The second stanza tells the story of simple, trusting faith. Of people who, upon hearing the Lord’s call, simply arose and followed Him. No words, no questions, just simple faith. What a great place in which to stand! And the peace that comes from such unquestioning faith; something truly precious, I think.
The third stanza speaks of the silence of communion between Jesus and our Father. The picture is touching and compelling – Jesus kneeling at Galilee, communing in silence, expressing His love. It is a clear picture of love, stillness, and peace.
My favourite stanza is the fourth. Here we directly implore God to visit us with his peace, in our world full of stresses and fears. This stanza is apt for modern-day life, and it resonates so much with me. The idea of God’s ‘still dews of quietness’ slowly and gently dropping on us, quietly and consistently, ’till all our strivings cease’. I see here two applications. It refers, of course, to the ultimate cessation of our strivings when we leave this world, but also to the peace we can get in this life as we bask in God’s daily and constant care for us.
And then the final stanza. The hymn ends with a loving invocation to the ‘still, small voice of calm’. God’s own voice. A prayer for that voice to ‘breathe through the earthquake, wind, and fire’. Yes, the earthquake, wind and fire of our daily lives. It tells us that, even in the midst of such bedlam, we can hear that voice of calm. It reminds us not to focus too much on the noisy distractions, but to seek out, and listen for, the precious peace of God. This stanza draws its source from the Bible story of Elijah’s encounter with our Lord. Ignoring earthquake, wind, and fire, he waited until he heard God’s still, small voice. (Read the story here.)
This is a beautiful, beautiful hymn and prayer. It brings me to a place of quietness, peace, and gratitude. I hope it does the same for you. You can find the lyrics here.