I came across this beautiful prayer and wondered who wrote it:
He asked for strength that he might achieve;
He was made weak that he might obey.
He asked for health that he might do greater thing;,
He was given infirmity that he might do better things.
He asked for riches that he might be happy;
He was given poverty that he might be wise.
He asked for power that he might have the praise of men;
He was given weakness that he might feel the need for God.
He asked for all things that he might enjoy life;
He was given life that he might enjoy all things.
He has received nothing that he asked for;
All that he hoped for. His prayer is answered; he is most blessed.
The first appearance I found was in an article, “The Practice of the Presence of God” by the Very Rev. Edmund S. Rousmaniere in St. Andrew’s Cross, October 1912, pp. 61-64.
P. 63, “Another door into the Divine Presence is our work. I want to read you a few lines written by a dear friend of mine whose experience, I think, you will read between the lines, telling you that he found the assurance of God’s abiding presence not only through prayer but also through the other door of work or consecration to the Father’s will. I dare not speak his name. He is still living. He calls these lines the ‘Creed of a Soldier.’ He was a gallant officer in the defense of the Southern cause, and from the end of the war unto this day his life has been given, in spite of disappointment and pain and poverty, to the service of God’s little ones, the helpless and needy.”
“He calls these words the ‘Creed of a Solder.'”
The author of the prayer was a friend of Rev. Rousmaniere, but the reverend wouldn’t give his name! But I knew that he was still alive as of 1912.
[“Edmund Swett Rousmaniere, the son of John Easton Rousmaniere (1813-1876) and Abigail Whitmore (Swett) Rousmaniere (1820-1895), was born in 1858. In 1890, Edmund married Sophie Knight (1865-1944), the daughter of Robert and Josephine Louisa (Webster) Knight. Edmund Rousmaniere graduated from Roxbury Latin School in 1879 and received his A.B. from Harvard in 1883. He graduated from Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge in 1886. His first call was at the First Parish Church in Pontiac, R.I. then Grace Church in New Bedford, Mass. followed by the Grace Church in Providence, R.I. and finally as Dean of St. Paul’s Church in Boston.” (Biographical note from NEHGS, http://digitalcollections.americanancestors.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15869coll32/id/2189)]
St. Andrew’s Cross was a publication of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, http://www.brothersandrew.net/
I found the author’s name and some of his story from, The Young Folks Book of Ideals by William Byron Forbush, Boston, MA, 1916, pp. 515-518:
“Once, purely by accident, I found the footprints of a man, an old Confederate captain, who in the humblest kind of work had wrought a strength and splendour that caused me to revere him.”
“Somewhere I had come across these strange, rhythmic lines:
‘He asked for strength that he, might achieve; he was made weak that he might obey.
He asked for health that he might do greater things; he was given infirmity that he might do better things.
He asked for riches that he might be happy; he was given poverty that he might be wise.
He asked for power that he might have the praise of men; he was given weakness that he might feel the need of God.
He asked for all things that he might enjoy life; he was given Life that he might enjoy all things.
He had received nothing that he asked for, all that he hoped for.
‘His prayer is answered. He is most blest.'”
“They seemed to me to sum up a brave and heroic life story. Having secured the name of the author [Note: He must have contacted Rev. Rousmaniere.], I wrote to him and asked him if he would tell me how he came to write them. And below is what he told me, the story of what I have since called
THE CREED OF A SOLDIER”
“Captain R. H. Fitzhugh [Robert Hunter] was born of slave-holding parents in the little village of Port Royal on the banks of the Rappahannock in Virginia. He was reared among slaves on a great plantation, was educated in the school of hard knocks, and became at length a civil engineer.” [Note: His father, George Fitzhugh, was a well-known and extreme defender of slavery, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Fitzhugh.]
“When he was a boy of twelve he was taken, in the summer of 1848, by his father, who was a lawyer, into a casemate of Fortress Monroe, where a court martial was in session. Upon entering the dark, grim, gun-room lit up with candles, his eyes were at once riveted upon a man brilliant in the gold trappings of full military uniform, presiding at a little table upon an elevated platform. The man was wonderfully handsome and with a majesty so serene, so beautiful, that the boy’s interest was at once tempered with awe. He had never seen a man look like that. It might be a king, but kings never looked so good and beautiful. The vision, unchanged but heightened, lingers with him still; for this man who became his life’s hero was Robert E. Lee, then an American captain, later the commander-in-chief of the armies of the Confederacy.”
“Mr. Fitzhugh entered the Confederate army at the outbreak of the Rebellion and in two years had suffered in three northern prisons, when, upon being exchanged at City Point on the James River, he had his first interview with General Lee. The General was alone. He inquired with sympathy for his welfare and that of his family and assigned him to General John B. Hood’s division, which he reached in time to ride beside his commander in the assault on Little Round Top in the battle of Gettysburg.”
“He rejoined General Lee again in Pennsylvania and heard him decline the hospitality of his Northern hosts, because he would not seek shelter under any roof, whether of friend or foe, while his men were lying shelterless. He once worked out for the general’s approval a battle line, to which General Lee objected, because women and children might be in the line of fire. ‘ The population is small,’ said Captain Fitzhugh, ‘and most of them would leave the place before the battle.’ ‘Where would they go?’” asked the general sharply, and then more tenderly he added, ‘Ah, Captain, our people have sorrows enough already; let us strive to spare them all we can.'”
“Since the war, Captain Fitzhugh, like so many of the brave Southerners, has been a servant of the Government against which his hand was raised, in the army engineering corps. He has ‘helped his wife (a little) to bring up a family of seven children (all doing us honor and bringing us great comfort),’ and now, in his old age, nearly eighty, he is the manager of a home in Lexington, Kentucky, for friendless and orphan negro children, ‘trying to give them a better chance in a world to which they don’t seem to be very welcome.’
“What a brave, a stormy, a beautiful life! I thought you would like to hear of the old soldier, and I thought so principally, because of the lines which I have printed.”
“It strikes one with a certain sublimity that this soldier of many battles and prisons should come, in the evening of his life, to give his tender and daily care to the children of the bond-slave, for whom we in the North in our ignorance suppose that the Southerner does not care, providing them shoes and teaching them how to make them, giving them schooling and even sending some of them to Tuskegee, and raising the money to make it possible for them to have somewhere near a white boy’s chance. ‘He asked to rule that he might be great; he was made to serve that he might be greater.'”
“And this is why, for a year, whenever I have been disillusioned, I have whispered over and over to myself the brave old Captain’s lesson: ‘He asked for all things that he might enjoy life; he was given Life that he might enjoy all things.'”
This prayer is also known as “The Paradox of Prayer.” It is first mentioned with this title in “What Do We Get out of Prayer?” by Rev. Frederick W. Kates in The Living Church, vol. 118, 1/23/49, p. 11
Author is listed as “Col. R.H. Fitzhugh.”[Note: perhaps a Kentucky Colonel?] And the poem lacks the last line, “He is most blest.”
Obituary for Capt. R.H. Fitzhugh, The Charleston Daily Mail, November 21, 1919, p. 6: “Capt. Robert Hunter Fitzhugh, the last surviving member of Gen. R.E. Lee’s staff, has died at Lexington, Ky., at the age of 83, [Note: born 1836]. After the war he began the work of elevating the negro, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for this purpose, despite the fact his parents were slaveholders in Charlotte county Va., before the war. It is said that he numbered among his Eastern friends J.P. Morgan, Jr., Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.”
It is amazing that a man from such an antebellum background would lead the life he did.