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Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire

About the Song

Words by James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Music by Sally DeFord

Montgomery’s beautiful text is one of my favorites in the LDS hymnal (#145), and I toyed with the idea of writing my own melody for it for quite awhile before actually doing it.

The hymn as published in the hymnbook has eight verses, though only four are usually sung, probably because the melodic setting in the hymnbook places emphasis on quite a few wrong syllables for those last four verses… come to think of it, there’s a bit of that going on in the verses we usually sing as well.

This arrangement uses only seven of the eight stanzas–it just worked out that way. They’re printed below. “Only” seven may give the impression that the song is unusually long, but it moves along in such a way that each verse is really only half a verse long.

The choral is a step higher than the solo version and the accompaniments are interchangeable–if you prefer a higher-voice solo, use the SATB accompaniment.

Church Music Submission: Anthem division–Award of Distinction 2006 (SATB); Relief Society division-Award of Merit 2017 (SSAA)

Spotify, Soundcloud (inc. free downloads)

Click the Soundcloud download icon to download the free track for personal use.

Recording featuring vocals by Heather Prusse:

Accompaniment track:

Recording featuring vocals by Allyse Smith Taylor:

Accompaniment track:


  (Video provided to YouTube by outside parties may contain ads that may be skipped after a few seconds.)


Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire
Uttered or unexpressed
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast

Prayer is the burden of a sigh
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath
The Christian’s native air
His watchword at the gates of death
He enters heav’n with prayer

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
Returning from his ways
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, “Behold! He prays!”

Nor prayer is made on earth alone
The Holy Spirit pleads
And Jesus at the Father’s throne
For sinners intercedes

O thou by whom we come to God
The Life, the Truth, the Way
The path of prayer thyself hast trod
Lord, teach us how to pray

If you have questions, please check the FAQ
If you don't find your answer there, feel free to post your question here. 🙂


  1. Jeanie Pierson

    I’m a total Sally deFord nerd, as is our devoted choir. How did I miss this? A soloist sang this so movingly in our Stake Conference session last night with beautiful violin accompaniment. I couldn’t wait to get home to learn it. Our family is facing a difficult time, as are many others. This beautiful hymn is now embedded in my heart and mind. Bless you, again, Sis. DeFord.

  2. Jean Davies

    Sally, you truly are a treasure! Such a sweet gift you give to us with every piece of music you write or arrange. Bless you, Bless you!

  3. Jake NIelsen

    You are a treasure. God bless you.
    From one musician to another I hope you know that we all use your music frequently and
    see how it has touched and brought tears to many.
    thank you. Wish you could know just how many.

    • Thalia Andrus Taylor


  4. Pierce Newsom

    What year did Sally DeFord put music to the words of
    Prayer is the Souls sincere desire?

  5. rosekruger

    Sally, thank you so much for sharing your gift. Whenever I am asked to perform in a meeting this is the first place I come. I am so grateful for your generosity!

  6. Noel Cayton

    I feel the same way.

  7. Darla Valora

    Sally, You are amazing! What an instrument for good you are. Thanks for sharing your God given gift, I am sure He is proud of you.

  8. Adria van Niekerk

    Is there an accompaniment in the higher key for the higher version?

  9. Kristi Meyers

    Does the SATB obbligato work for the SSAA version? It is so beautiful what you do on this website. It is truly remarkable to me that you provide such a wealth of quality music that is free.
    Thank you!

    • sallydeford

      It should. The accompaniments, harmonies and measure numbers are all the same. If you try it, let us know!


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