I should like to speak to you
Source: Singing the Faith: 522
Words: Joy Webb
Music: Joy Webb
There is a deceptive simplicity about this hymn. Both its words and melody begin by echoing the classic children’s hymn: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. But when it reaches the refrain, Joy Webb’s tune slips into something a little more complex (though still easy to pick up) – and that complexity seems to reflect her message: that finding the right words to pray to God is not always as eay as we’d like it to be.
“I should like to speak to you, / for I know you’re there!” she writes. But “every time I try, I find / it’s hard to make a prayer”. She wonders if God can see what she is thinking – if God can look into her heart; find her hopes, dreams and moments of despair – and accept these thoughts as a prayer. If words completely fail us, she suggests (v.2), nevertheless God will still listen patiently, wanting whatever we can offer (v.3).
(Incidentally, for all its simplicity, the story goes that when the eminent Swiss theologan Karl Barth was asked, during a lecture tour across America in 1962, whether he could summarise his life’s theological work in one sentence, he responded with the words he had heard as a child while sitting on his mother’s knee: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.)
Also see You hear us when we cannot speak, which asks the question: How do we pray to God when we don’t know what to say?
Joy Webb’s other hymns in Singing the Faith are When I’m feeling down and sad (StF 642) and It was on a starry night (StF 206). For an account of Joy’s chart successes with the Joystrings in the 1960s, see When I’m feeling down and sad.