Hymn Study: What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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FREE hymn study unit for What a Friend We Have in Jesus -- includes hymn history, lyrics, listening links, hymn copywork, notebooking pages, and more!

In days gone by, the well-loved hymns of the church were sung regularly. Sadly, the old hymns have been replaced by modern “praise music” in most of today’s churches, and many children are missing out on the rich heritage of Christian hymns that we enjoyed.

If you want your family to learn and appreciate the beautiful hymns that you grew up singing, I’d love to have you join me in studying some of the best-loved hymns of all time!

Sign up at the bottom of this page to receive this FREE hymn study + printables today!

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Hymn History

Joseph M. Scriven, author of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” was born in Dublin, Ireland, on September 10, 1819. As a young adult, he graduated from Trinity College and became engaged. Sadly, his fiancée accidentally drowned the evening before they were to be married.

Heartbroken by the loss of his fiancée, Scriven immigrated to Canada at the age of twenty-five. There he became engaged to Eliza Roche, a relative of the family he was tutoring, but the girl died of pneumonia shortly before the wedding.

Joseph M. Scriven

Joseph M. Scriven

Mr. Scriven joined the Plymouth Brethren Church and spent his life helping the widows and elderly members of his community. He was known as a selfless man who never refused help to anyone in need.

Mr. Scriven was often seen in the streets of Port Hope, Ontario, carrying a saw and sawhorse. One day a rich man saw him and wanted to hire him to cut wood.

When the rich man’s friend heard this, he replied, “He wouldn’t cut wood for you. He only cuts wood for people who don’t have enough money to pay him.”

In 1855 Mr. Scriven learned that his mother was seriously ill in Ireland, but he couldn’t afford to travel to be with her. Instead he wrote her a letter and enclosed his poem “Pray Without Ceasing” to encourage her to “take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Later, when Scriven himself was ill, a friend came to visit and happened to see the scribbled poem. When asked about the poem, Scriven replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.”

That same poem was later renamed “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Although Scriven had not intended to publish the poem, it was included in a small collection of his poems in 1869.

Charles Converse

Charles Converse

The composer, Charles C. Converse, was an attorney who practiced law in Erie, Pennsylvania. Many of his musical works were performed by leading orchestras and choirs of his day, but he is best remembered today for this simple tune.

Ira D. Sankey discovered the hymn in 1875 and included it in his hymnbook, Sankey’s Gospel Hymns Number One. Since that time, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” has become one of the best-loved hymns of all time.

Listen to the Hymn

Piano solo by Rick Betts with on-screen lyrics

Hymn Lyrics 

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Get Your FREE Hymn Study Unit!

What a Friend We Have in Jesus hymn study

This hymn study unit includes all the tools you need to study the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”:

  • hymn history
  • lyrics
  • sheet music
  • links to listen to the hymn
  • review questions to gauge comprehension
  • copywork and notebooking pages
  • related Scripture to memorize
  • vocabulary words taken from the hymn

Sign up now to receive your FREE hymn study unit!


  1. I can tell I’m going to enjoy this series. I’ve always wanted to know more about hymns.

  2. Love this! Pinned it!

  3. This is one of my favorite hymns! So much sweetness comes from those who trust the Lord in sadness and loss. Thanks for the printable!

  4. My daughter (13yo) has been insisting on Christmas music since August. The other day she was saying how she likes the really old Christmas music with classic words. I offered, “Like hymns?” and she responded with a resounding “YES!”
    Thank you for putting this together as we direct her away from Christmas Carols and to other hymns.

  5. Stephanie says:

    This is wonderful! Thank you for creating such a beautiful addition to our homeschool studies!

  6. This is awesome! Thank you

  7. This is such a great resource! Thank you–I included your link and a description of what you offer on my blog today: http://creativekkids.com/2013/04/29/my-favorite-finds-of-the-day/ I hope this is okay!

  8. Can you please tell me what is the technical name of the tune, what a friend we have in Jesus.

  9. Is there any way can help me finding the technical name for the tune Burdens are lifted at Calvary please.

  10. When burdens are lifted at Calvary composed.

  11. Rosalie says:

    Beautifully done! I’m looking forward to implementing this in our home studies. Thank you!

  12. Irma R. Garza says:

    I can hardly wait to get this…💖

  13. We were in the midst of the full study that was previously linked on your site and had already covered this one; any chance the full study is available for purchase?

    • Yes! The ebook will be available in just a few weeks. Right now I’m working on getting ALL the verses of each hymn into copywork format. That’s the last thing that needs done.

      If you sign up to get this freebie (you don’t have to download it), you will get an email when the ebook is completed. :)

  14. Natalie Bowen says:

    This is wonderful! Can you let me know your email for a few questions? I cannot open outlook with the email link in the contact section. I only have Yahoo :) Thank you!

  15. Tami minor says:

    Thanks for offering this :)

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