What follows is a melded poem: the original words of Isaac Watts, and my own annotation or meditation (in parentheses) within. I make no claim of having improved on the 300-year-old original. But I invite you to enter into its familiar words and consider with me how to make it your own prayer.
When I survey the wondrous cross
(As on that day, a battered, ugly thing)
Where the young Prince of Glory died,
(Bruised, beaten, mocked: “Hail, King”)
My richest gain I count but loss
(As all seemed lost and nothing “good”)
And pour contempt on all my pride.
(As he poured passion with his blood.)
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
(Or brag I’d join you on this hill)
Save in the death of Christ my God
(That made a Roman – and the world – stand still)
All the vain things that charm me most,
(In vain I think possess the power to save)
I sacrifice them to his blood
(My life, my love, and all I have).
See from his head, his hands, his feet
(Scratched, slashed, mangled, pierced)
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
(With spurned, rejected lover’s tears)
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
(Weep for Jerusalem, oh! if only)
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
(For one forlorn, despised, and lonely)
His dying crimson, like a robe,
(He lost the robe a soldier gloats to win)
Spreads o’er his body on the tree;
(A tree that bore the whole world’s weight in sin)
Then am I dead to all the globe
(Forsake the claim of any human hand)
And all the globe is dead to me.
(Apart from this place all is foreign land).
Were the whole realm of nature mine
(A gift from one who calmed the sea)
That were a present far too small;
(Compared with all eternity)
Love so amazing, so divine,
(So free, unselfish, born in me again)
Demands my soul, my life, my all
(So let it be and so – amen!)