Be the guide of my youth


By Cindy McGarvie
National Director – Youth for Christ Australia

Read: 1 Timothy 6:11-16

It was a Sunday afternoon in 1816 Bristol, England. Young William Knibb, a fourteen-year-old apprentice printer and a Sunday school teacher was listening to the superintendent before dismissing Sunday School for the day. The Godly old man spoke from Jeramiah 3:4:

“Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth?” (NKJV)

Those words, intended for the younger children, hit like an arrow upon the conscience of William Knibb.

I felt ashamed being a teacher, that the address should be as suitable to me as to the children. I felt conscious that I had wandered as far from God as ever they had, and that I needed a forgiving Father and a constant guide as much as they did. I was overwhelmed. I felt such a mixture of shame and grief, of hope and love, as I had never felt before and cannot now describe.

I could not join in the closing hymn. I went to my room above and yielded to my feelings. I wept bitterly and prayed as I had never prayed before. I turned the text itself into a prayer. “My Father,” I cried to God, “wilt not Thou from this time be the guide of my youth?” The Lord heard my prayer and enabled me to give Him my heart; and now it is my earnest desire to yield myself to his guidance as long as I live! [1]

‘I wept bitterly and prayed as I had never prayed before. I turned the text itself into a prayer. “My Father,” I cried to God, “wilt not Thou from this time be the guide of my youth?”’

- William Knibb

Young William was just fourteen years old. Fourteen.

“My Father, wilt not Thou be the guide of my youth?”

 The Lord heard his prayer and became his guide.

Young William and his elder brother Thomas burned for the lost, particularly those in slavery. At one time when the elder Thomas read from a copy that had come into the printing room how successful the indigenous preachers were, fearing there wouldn’t be a need for him to go, he wept, “I’m greatly afraid, that … I shall have no part in the evangelisation of the world!” Thomas did become a missionary and was sent to Jamaica but died of fever only three months later.

William wept bitterly at the death of his brother, but rose up and declared, “I will go and take his place.”

William was just 21 years old and newly married when he stepped onto the shores of Jamaica. Not once did that clear guidance from the Lord ever fail him. He soon realised that the principles of Christianity and slavery are so entirely opposed to each other, that the only remedy for these evils is the immediate and complete extinction of slavery.[2]

William Wilberforce had ended the slave trade, the buying and shipping of slaves in the British Empire. However, William Knibb was confronted with those who already owned slaves, what of them and their children? He went to the British parliament and fought successfully for the Slavery Bill in order make a way to free those still in slavery in the British empire. Someone once wrote the salvation of William Knibb was the deliverance of slaves across the seas.[3]

William Knibb - Unknown artist lithograph, 1838 © National Portrait Gallery, London (adapted)


‘I am not afraid to die… the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin, both omission and commission; that blood is my only trust!’

- William Knibb

William Knibb died at the young age of 42 in Jamaica. “‘I am not afraid to die,’ he said; ‘the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin, both omission and commission; that blood is my only trust!’ And just as the gentle spirit was about to take its flight, he reached out his hand to Mrs. Knibb and murmured: ‘Mary, it is all right: all is well!’” [4]

Our Father was indeed the Guide of William Knibb’s youth. May many young men like this humble and good man cast their anchor within the veil and follow faithfully under the pilotage of the sure, safe and skilful Captain of our souls.

All is right: all is well!

Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth? Jer 3:4

Further Reading: Read all Proverbs Chapter 1 and 2 during the week.


Prayer Focus

Just like fourteen-year-old William Knibb, may God convict the spirits of boys and young men and awaken them to Christ

  • Pray that wandering hearts would return to God who is a true Father and the only Guide for life.
  • That they would cast themselves at the foot of the Cross and recognise their need of God’s great mercy.
  • Pray that every young person, particularly boys and young men would truly know the forgiveness of God and walk in it. It could transform the world.


For the Timothies

  • Pray that these young men of God will flee from evil and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
  • Pray that many new Timothies will take hold of the eternal life that God called them to, particularly those who were raised in the faith and who once made a profession in the presence of witnesses (friends and family) but have now fallen away.
  • Pray that God would keep all of the Timothies who are working in the harvest from falling and strengthen them from the temptation that can easily lead them away from their true calling.
  • If you know any by name, pray for them specifically.


Those who have wandered away from truth i.e., these are lost sons and daughters who once walked in truth with Jesus and are no longer walking with Him

  • 1 Tim 1:6 – they have swerved (deviated from truth) from love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5, 19)
  • Pray that they will flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace (2 Tim 2:22)


Quotes used in this article taken from the following source material:

[1] Frank W. Boreham, “A Bunch of Everlastings or Texts That Made History”, (London: The Epworth Press), 1952, p.191-192
[2] Alan Jackson, “William Knibb, 1803-1845, Jamaican missionary and slaves' friend” 2003,
[3] Borham p.192
[4] Borham, p.197

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