“Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire” – UMH 492
Campmeeting – sounds like a fun thing if the weather were better! But this also happens to be the name of a hymn tune, set to the lyrics, “Prayer is the Soul’s Sincere Desire” by James Montgomery – who has been lauded as a hymn writer akin to Watts, Wesley, and Newton among others… Anybody know what other hymn lyrics James Montgomery wrote? Here’s a few that may be familiar: Angels from the Realms of Glory; Go to Dark Gethsemane, and Hail to the Lord’s Anointed. Additionally, he’s responsible for revising the lyrics of another hymn that may be familiar: Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.
Born a Scotsman in 1771, in 1778 James was sent to Fulneck Seminary in Yorkshire. While he was in boarding school, his Moravian parents were killed on the mission field in the West Indies. He left school to work in retail in 1787. Poetry he submitted for publication was rejected in London, and he could have wound up obscure, paying the bills with retail work. But in 1792, he became an assistant to a newspaper printer, and finally found a home for his passion for writing. In 1794, the newspaper printer left England to avoid political imprisonment.
Montgomery renamed the paper the Sheffield Iris and continued to edit and print it from 1796-1827. He was twice imprisoned, first for reprinting a song on The Fall of the Bastille and then for publishing an account of a riot in Sheffield. He opposed slavery. He supported the British Bible Society. He published several volumes of his own hymns: Songs of Zion (1822), Christian Psalmist (1825) and Original Hymns (1853). There are seven of his hymns in the United Methodist Hymnal (1989). He retired in 1833 and died peacefully in his sleep in 1854, at Sheffield, Yorkshire.