Words by Anonymous

(Also included in the Broadman Hymnal, 1940 ed., Broadman Press, Nashville – #4 Baptist Hymnal, 1975 ed. Convention Press, Nashville – #2, 1991 ed. Convention Press, Nashville – #247, 2008 ed. LifeWay,  Nashville – #336; Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1968 – #21; Voice of Praise, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1947 – #124; Favorite Hymns of Praise, Tabernacle Publishing Co., Chicago, 1967 – #4; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, Word, Waco, 1986 – #267; The Celebration Hymnal, Word/Integrity, Waco, 1997 – #8; The Kids Hymnal, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MA, 2007 – #30.)

This hymn, although the author is unknown, has been a popular song of praise throughout many decades. While some attribute the poem to Charles Wesley (and the timing of its appearance in collections of hymns would fit), the great hymn writer never claimed it as his own.

The Hymn

1.      Come, thou almighty King,
            help us thy name to sing,
            help us to praise!
            Father all glorious,
            o'er all victorious,
            come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!
2.      Come, thou incarnate Word,
            gird on thy mighty sword,
            our prayer attend!
            Come, and thy people bless,
            and give thy word success,
            Spirit of holiness, on us descend!
3.      Come, holy Comforter,
            thy sacred witness bear
            in this glad hour.
            Thou who almighty art,
            now rule in every heart,
            and ne'er from us depart, Spirit of power!
4.      To thee, great One in Three,
            eternal praises be,
            hence, evermore.
            Thy sovereign majesty
            may we in glory see,
            and to eternity love and adore!

(Hymn words accessed at Hymnsite)

Scriptural Connection

According to the collectors of hymns there are a couple of options from the Psalms to connect with this hymn. Some of the modern editors would turn us to Psalm 95 – extolling the greatness of God (specifically verse 3). The editors of in the Baptist tradition which is my own background opt for Psalm 24 – with a focus on verse 10 which draws attention to both the sovereignty and the glory of God. “Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.”

While the hymn does highlight the power and glory of God Almighty, and either of these connections would be appropriate, I believe the hymn goes beyond this. It is an invocation—an invitation for the One who is mightier than all, above all, and before all, into a communion with the body of worshipers.

What does it mean?

This week’s hymn moves beyond the simple praise songs we have been seeing, and literally invites the presence of Almighty God to do more than accept the praises of His people – the Church. It is an invitation for Him to actually direct that praise so that it will be a proper praise.

This hymn again reminds us that while God is One and one God, He is Trinity. When we worship Him we worship all that He is – King, Savior, and Comforter. Some of the difficulty could be found in phrases such as “our prayer attend” which actually is another invitation for God to listen to our prayers. Not just to listen to them by to be present in them. Some versions of this hymn substitute the phrase “Spirit of Holiness on us descend” (stanza 2) with “’stablish Thy righteousness Savior and Friend” (see Lutheran Hymnal online) which is more awkward for modern readers. In either case the worshiper again invites the Spirit of God to join in union with the spirit of the worshiper—and thus increasing the worshiper’s righteousness or holiness.

One of the reasons that I see this hymn as being included so often in the collections of hymns used by churches in a variety of traditions is that it is a hymn which draws the attention of the body gathered to the presence of the King of Kings, and calls those present to invoke—or invite—Him to be not only present with them, but present and influential in their lives and worship. It is timeless in its call to worship.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.