Friday, September 13, 2013

Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun (Strength in Hymn)

Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun
by Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
thy daily stage of duty run;
shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise 
to pay thy morning sacrifice.

Redeem thy misspent time that's past,
And live this day as if the last;
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

Let all thy converse be sincere,
Thy conscience as the noon-day clear; 
Think how all-seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite. 

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host:
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.



I guess you recognized that last bit, didn't you, even if you hadn't heard the rest? The doxology that we know and love is actually the final part of a much longer hymn.  I'm only including about half of the verses here.  The author, Thomas Ken, was an Anglican bishop whose Protestant religious convictions landed him as a prisoner in the Tower of London.  

According to CyberHymnal, "Ken wrote this hymn at a time when the es­tab­lished church believed only Scripture should be sung as hymns—with an em­pha­sis on the Psalms. Some con­sid­ered it sin­ful and blas­phe­mous to write new lyr­ics for church mu­sic, akin to ad­ding to the Script­ures. In that at­mo­sphere, Ken wrote this and sev­er­al other hymns for the boys at Win­chest­er Col­lege, with strict in­struct­ions that they use them on­ly in their rooms, for pri­vate de­vo­tions. Iron­ic­al­ly, the last stan­za has come into wide­spread use as the Dox­ol­o­gy, per­haps the most fr­equent­ly used piece of mu­sic in pub­lic wor­ship. At Ken's request, the hymn was sung at his fun­er­al, fit­tingly held at sun­rise."


What is the point?  Is this hymn demanding a lifestyle of performance?  Are we just supposed to push ourselves to do, do, do – to prove our worth?  No.  It is about being aware of God, taking time to worship, making the most of our day, serving others, getting better at what we do, keeping a clear conscience, and living well with a heart for excellence -- with God's empowerment.   All of this is wholesome and ultimately pleasant for the soul. I believe this invigorating approach is so much better than living with the worm mentality of thinking I can never do anything well or that I am so insignificant that my puny efforts will never make a difference or that God has to hold his nose or look away when I am in his presence.  As the Westminster catechism proclaims, The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever!  We can do that.  We were made for it.


I thought of this hymn today because I had a really hard time getting up and getting going with the day since I hadnt slept well during the night.  Unfortunately, this sleepiness resulted in a few cross words exchanged with a child who had other expectations for my activity level.  I eventually eased into wakefulness, especially with the help of a little caffeine and reading.  It was a productive day after all: a vigorous mix of laundry, helping my husband with his resume, grading and lesson planning for the classes I teach three days a week, chauffeuring my kids, cooking dinner, chatting with my family, and shopping.  And yes, wee pockets of time to pause and rest and ponder the goodness of God and the beauty of his creation.  Speaking of which, the photos here are actually not of sunrise, but this evenings sunset as I left home for errands – but I think that’s just fine since once I got going, I lasted all day!  I love to stop and notice what God has made for our enjoyment and his own glory.


A modernized version of the hymn...  Enjoy!


Virginia Knowles

If you like my sunset and clouds photos, you might also like: 
Catch It While You Can


  1. I'm right after you at Still Saturday. I loved the hymn and the history behind it, but my favorite is always the little tidbits about your real life. :)

  2. Dear Virginia
    I grew up in a church that still to today only sings psalms and Scripture verses that have been rhymed with music!! That is not wrong in itself, for we are free in Jesus, but it does become wrong when we make a law or rule out of this conviction!
    Blessings XX

    1. Mia, is that Dutch Reformed? You live in South Africa, right?

  3. Virginia,
    Your pictures are stunning - isn't the sky a beautiful gift?? Thanks for teaching me something new - I love the way old hymns are crafted, I love how the writers cherish their words - I never knew about the Doxology, though.

    1. Jane, I definitely love taking pictures of the sky, especially at sunrise and sunset! On my main blog, I even have a category called Clouds!

  4. Ah, Virginia -- just discovered your post and loved, loved, loved it. Thanks so much! I love hymn stories,can you tell? You're welcome to join my Lyrical Tuesdays link-up community anytime with any post about any Christian song that encourages you and others. Thanks again!

    1. Kristen, what is the link for that? I tried clicking your name, and your profile wasn't available. :-)

    2. Oh, I found you after all! You posted over on Still Saturday! I'll be by for Lyrical Tuesday next week. What time do you put your link post up?

  5. The things I learn on the internet! I had no idea about the Doxology. Your photos are simply gorgeous.