Hymn Study: What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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Hymn Study for Homeschoolers

Hymn Study for Homeschoolers is a new series being published weekdays from October 15-26. It’s a simple guide to hymn study that includes free printable notebooking and copywork pages for ten well-loved hymns.

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What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Hymn History

Joseph M. Scriven

Joseph M. Scriven

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

After the loss of his fiancee, Scriven emigrated 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 shortly before the wedding. Scriven then joined the Plymouth Brethren and helped the elderly members of the community. He was known as a selfless man who never refused help to anyone in need.

In 1855, Mr. Scriven learned that his mother was seriously ill in Dublin, Ireland, but he was unable to go be with her. Instead he wrote her a letter and enclosed this poem.  Later when he himself was ill, a friend came to visit and happened to see the scribbled poem. 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 a Christian who wrote articles on many subjects under the pen name Karl Reden. He had many of his musical works performed by leading orchestras and choirs, but he is best remembered for this simple tune.

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

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.

You can also download sheet music for What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

Listen to the Hymn

Piano solo by Rick Betts with on-screen lyrics

Additional Activities


You’re welcome to download this free set of  notebooking and copywork pages to use in your hymn study.

Notebooking page

What a Friend We Have in Jesus (Printables)

Scripture Memorization

“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Vocabulary Words

  • forfeit
  • cumbered
  • refuge
  • solace
  • rapture

Sources: The Cyber Hymnal, 101 Hymn Stories: The Inspiring True Stories Behind 101 Favorite Hymns

Hymn Study for Homeschoolers is part of the Hopscotch, an event hosted by iHomeschool Network.

Hopscotch with iHN


  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!

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