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“Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart” TLH 429, LSB 708

Written by | November, 2020
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Martin Schalling’s (1532-1608) Lutheran roots were deep. A graduate of the University of Wittenberg where Luther had once taught, he had been a student of Luther’s dear friend Philip Melanchthon. He was also a close friend of Nicolaus Selnecker, one of the authors of the “Formula of Concord”. Surrounded by such “Reformation royalty,” Schalling was a teacher, a superintendent, and then a court preacher by 1576.
The years following Luther’s death in 1546 were tumultuous ones for those trying to hold to the true teachings of Scripture. There was a lot of pressure on the faithful to give up some of their Biblical positions in order to establish greater unity among the Protestants. Schalling felt this pressure and was tempted to yield to it. Yet the Lord used him in the work of the kingdom, especially through the only known example of his hymn writing: “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.”
The song is the prayer of a Christian who has suffered the trials of life and is looking forward to heaven and all its glory. It was published around 1567 as a hymn “for the dying.” The theme of the first stanza is, “Lord, do not ever leave me.” It begins with the heartfelt request, “Lord, Thee I love with all my heart; / I pray Thee, ne’er from me depart.” The presence of the Lord Jesus is something we count on throughout our lives. If Jesus were not with us here on earth, our earthly experiences would be without true pleasure. Likewise, if Jesus were not with us in heaven, heaven itself would be uninviting and dull. Please Lord, You Who have purchased me with Your precious blood, stay with me always—in sorrow and in joy!
The second stanza asks for strength to glorify Christ and serve others throughout one’s life. “Lord, grant that I in ev’ry place / May glorify Thy lavish grace / And serve and help my neighbor.” Life does not get easier as we get older, and the longer we live, the more we need Jesus’ guiding hand. Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd, . . . he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (NIV84) The longer we live, the more opportunities Satan has to ruin us, so we pray, “Let no false doctrine me beguile, / Let Satan not my soul defile. / Give strength and patience unto me / To bear my cross and follow Thee.”
Then comes the glorious closing stanza which holds heaven in full view! “Lord, let at last Thine angels come, / To Abram’s bosom bear me home, / That I may die unfearing; / And in its narrow chamber keep / My body safe in peaceful sleep / Until Thy reappearing.” The composer Johann Sebastian Bach thought so highly of this prayer that he used this verse to close his epic choral work The Passion According to St. John. How fitting a choice it was too, for as Christians contemplate the suffering and death of Christ for their sins, they can’t help but look ahead to their own deaths and the resurrections of their bodies!
“And then from death awaken me / That these mine eyes with joy may see, / O Son of God, Thy glorious face, / My Savior and my Fount of grace. / Lord Jesus Christ, My prayer attend, my prayer attend, / And I will praise Thee without end.” To which there is nothing left to say except, “AMEN! Come, Lord Jesus!”
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.

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