Prayer Perfect poem by James Whitcomb Riley; Music by Ervine J. Stenson

I know that in my head at night, I paint pictures.  Sometimes these pictures keep me awake.  My father, given that he has been blessed with the gift of music, recites hymns to himself as a matter of prayer.  Whatever the gift, I believe that it is intended that creative expression be offered back to our Creator.

Dad sang Prayer Perfect in the Moose Jaw Christian music festival a ‘few’ years back. (smiling, as I type this) and now he is thinking about singing it again, at the age of 82, likely in a different key.  I wish I could be sitting in a pew on the day that this might happen!

Robert Pounder would have been the accompanist for Dad in Moose Jaw.

Parting Gift Presentation with Mrs. A. Weir, Choral Director


I have archived most of Dad’s sheet music. It only took a minute to locate the piece and  I’ve enjoyed, the past few minutes, learning about the history of the piece.  A poem by James Whitcomb Riley, the piece was later put to music by Ervine J. Stenson, and published by SAM FOX.  Dad’s copy of the score has a copyright date of 1930.  It cost 60 cents at the time.

When James Whitcomb Riley died,  Woodrow Wilson called him “a man who imparted joyful pleasure and a thoughtful view of many things that other men would have missed”.

  • The Prayer Perfect song /​ poem by James Whitcomb Riley ; music by Ervine J. Stenson.
  • Stenson, Ervine J.
Other Creators
  • Riley, James Whitcomb, 1849-1916.
  • Sydney : Sam Fox, c1916.
Physical Description
  • 1 score ([2] p.) ; 28 cm.
  • For low medium voice.
  • English

While there are other versions, this is The Prayer Perfect written by James Whitcomb Riley and musical arrangement by Ervine J Stenson.

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A quick narrative…a memory.  My Dad kept his music in a beautiful old leather satchel and most times, it was kept in the linen cupboard.  When I was a little girl, I remembered one time when Mom’s back was turned, taking out some of my father’s music and colouring pictures on it.  For a very long time, I felt very scared that I had ruined something very special and did not ever make confession of my actions.  Just today, as I went through the music, I found such drawings and they made me smile.

Prayer Perfect for Mary-Jo

The Prayer Perfect Lyric

7 thoughts on “Prayer Perfect poem by James Whitcomb Riley; Music by Ervine J. Stenson

  1. Wonderful. I have never heard this song before. However my Grandma B. who is 90 years old, is approaching her final days on earth and has requested that we sing this this song. It’s it very beautiful.

    • Oh my goodness…that is so wonderful that she has the memory of a beautiful song on her heart. I will add your Grandma B. to my prayers. Thank you for writing.

  2. My mother in law is 103 and is nearing the end of her time. While looking through some of her memories and other paperwork we just found her funeral request. She didn’t necessarily request it to be sung but that it be printed on the funeral home’s obituary card. There is a CD at her home of her singing it many years ago. I’m hoping I can find a clear copy to print out for the funeral home.

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