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WS 791 or LSB 859 “Lord, When You Came as Welcome Guest”

If there is an institution in the world needing our prayers more than the institution of marriage, I can hardly think what it could be. Among the households of my children’s schoolmates, I often feel as if ours is in a distinct minority—a man and a woman married to each other and living in the same house along with their three children—children who have never experienced anything other than that arrangement. Satan attacks marriages every hour of every day, and without the Lord’s gracious intervention they would all fail on account of our sinful behavior.
F. Samuel Janzow (1913-2001) also felt the importance of praying on behalf of marriages when he wrote the hymn we consider this month. Janzow was a professor of English and Theology at Concordia University, Chicago (River Forest), and each poetic verse here asks the great Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, for a particular blessing on married couples.
The first request is for the Savior’s presence in our marriages. “Lord, when you came as welcome guest / To Cana’s wedding feast . . . Now give your presence from above / That these, by vowing true, / May show their pledge is like the love / Between the Church and You.” If Jesus were not with us in our marriages, showering us with His Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, how impossible it would be to live together with our spouses in unconditional love and understanding! How could we show love to one another (even on those days we don’t feel like it) if we were not first brought to trust the love of Christ who loved us poor sinners even to the point of death? Yes, Lord, we need Thy presence every passing hour; what but Thy grace can foil the Tempter’s power?
In the second verse, the request is for Jesus to preserve our marriages. “Preserve the vow these two shall make, / This circle round their life, / This golden ring that none may break / Which makes them man and wife.” Sadly, this “golden ring” is very often broken by ungodly divorces— divorces fueled by anger, unhappiness, selfishness, a lust for someone else, or any number of other things. How does Jesus work to preserve our vows? We pray, “Your daily mercies let them share, / All threats of harm destroy.” Christ overwhelms our marriages with His mercy and care, He preserves us throughout both physical and spiritual threats in the ways He knows are best for us. Husbands and wives share a unique standpoint from which to observe these mercies together and rejoice in them together. Knowing that God is on their side gives them renewed determination to work together and stay together. Marriages need the preserving hand of Jesus, and He gives it.
In the final hymn verse, we ask the Lord to increase our love for Him. “On all who thus before You kneel / Your joyous Spirit pour / That each may wake the other’s zeal / To love You more and more.” It may surprise you that the author prays for couples to love Jesus more rather than to love each other more. Isn’t marriage about loving each other? Yes, but if we do not show love to our Savior, will we really show love to each other? Love for God must always take first place. As we pray for this increase of love, the Spirit focuses our hearts on Jesus (compare Luke 11:13).
Go then and pray for your marriage and/or for the marriages of others! “Oh, grant them here in peace to live, / In purity and love, / And after this life to receive / The crown of life above.”
David Schaller is pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sister Lakes, Michigan. He also prepares the “Bread of Life” devotions for the Lutheran Spokesman.