Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands

Hymn #201
Text: St. Ephraim the Syrian (c.306-373);
Translation: C. W. Humphreys (1840-1921)
Music: David McKinley Williams (1887-1978)
Tune name: MALABAR



The fourth-century Ephraim the Syrian was a deacon and theologian who left behind a significant body of sermons and hymns, including this Communion hymn:

Strengthen, O Lord, the hands which are stretched out to receive the Holy Thing: vouchsafe that they may daily bring forth fruit to thy divinity; that they may be worthy of all things which they have sung to thy praise within thy sanctuary, and may ever laud thee. Grant, moreover, my Lord, that the ears which have heard the voice of thy songs, may never hear the voice of clamor and dispute. Grant also that the eyes which have seen thy great love, may also behold thy blessed hope; that the tongues which have sung the Sanctus may speak the truth. Grant that the feet which have walked in the church may walk in the region of light: that the bodies which have tasted thy living Body may be restored in newness of life. On this congregation also, which adores thy divinity, let thy aids be multiplied, and let thy great love remain with us; and by thee may we abound in the manifestation of thy glory, and open the door to the prayers of all of us. We all then, who have drawn near by the gift of the grace of the Holy Ghost, and to whom it has been vouchsafed to become fellow participators in the reception of these mysteries, most excellent, holy, divine, and quickening, let us all praise and exult in God, the Giver of them.

This prose translation by John Mason Neale (1818-1866) was condensed and versified by Charles William Humphreys (1840-1921).

1. Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands
that holy things have taken;
let ears that now have heard thy songs
to clamour never waken.

2. Lord, may the tongues which “Holy” sang
keep free from all deceiving;
the eyes which saw thy love be bright,
thy blessèd hope perceiving.

3. The feet that tread thy holy courts
from light do thou not banish;
the bodies by thy Body fed
with thy new life replenish.


Welsh-born American church musician, composer, and teacher David McKinley Williams wrote this tune especially for this hymn text, first published in the 1940 edition of The Hymnal. The tune name — MALABAR — comes from a region of South India, home of the Church of Malabar Syrian Catholics.

Below is Andrew Remillard’s rendition of this hymn on piano.