Katie I. Philbrick (1856-1928), my mother’s grandmother, whose own mother, Patience Mayhew DeMaranville, was a daughter of Gilbert and Catherine (Tilton) Mayhew of Martha’s Vineyard, kept her first husband’s name even after marrying my grandmother’s father (Frederick E. Potter), because, no doubt, of the strict religious upbringing which would have frowned heavily on remarriage after divorce even in a case of abandonment. In the family her second marriage was thought to have never formally occurred, even though all the children had the surname Potter, until a few years ago my uncle found a note of it, citing date and place, in my great-grandfather’s military records in the National Archives. In her declining years she lived with her daughter (my grandmother) and grandchildren. She eventually became blind, but continued to write poetry. One day a traveling evangelist, Barney Warren, who was also a prolific songwriter, visited for a short time and set one of her poems to music, probably also adding the refrain. The poem itself was first published by the Gospel Trumpet Company in the Gospel Trumpet (periodical) March 29, 1923, and later as a song (the first four stanzas only) in Melodies of Zion and also in Hymns And Spiritual Songs, with a copyright notice of 1926 under the name of B. E. Warren. Her name as lyricist was listed as Kate T. Philrick, incorporating two errors on the part of the editor.
While I Pray
by Katie I. Philbrick
While I pray the clouds about me
Are transformed to red and gold,
And each raindrop has a message
From my Saviour yet untold;
Songs burst forth in midnight darkness,
Lights from glory round me play,
All is changed like wondrous magic—
Earth to heaven, while I pray.
While I pray the angels linger
Near me, for they fain would be
Witness of the joy in sorrow,
Strength in weakness giv’n to me;
And my shield, all worn and battered
In the fierceness of the fray,
Glows afresh with heav’nly luster
And protects me while I pray.
While I pray my friends seem fonder
As I ask for each a boon,
And in loving faith I ponder
And expect an answer soon;
And the cares that so beset me
Steal unnoticed quite away,
Leaving only purest comfort
Of God’s presence, while I pray.
O the joy of bowing lowly
Often at the mercy-seat,
Healing favor, radiant glory,
Views of Jesus’ face so sweet!
And tho’ trouble come, or sadness,
I will trust him all the way,
And my heart will throb with gladness,
Praise and rapture, while I pray.
When I reach the flowing river,
Gazing on the darksome tide,
Nothing then shall daunt my spirit—
For my Lord the way has tried.
As my eyes are softly closing
All the sights of earth away,
I shall pass in sweet contentment—
Pass on gently, while I pray.
While I pray, while I pray,
God will surely answer
In his own way;
While I pray, while I pray,
He will surely answer
While I pray.