“What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is a Christian hymn originally written by preacher Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 to comfort his mother, who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada. Scriven originally published the poem anonymously, and only received full credit for it in the 1880s. The tune to the hymn was composed by Charles Crozat Converse in 1868. William Bolcom composed a setting of the hymn.
The hymn also has many versions with different lyrics in multiple languages. The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal notes, “In spite of the fact that this hymn, with its tune, has been criticized as being too much on the order of the sentimental gospel type, its popularity remains strong, and the hymn retains a place in modern hymnals.” In some settings, the lyrics have been matched to other tunes such as the Welsh “Calon Lân” (originally wedded to the Welsh poem translated as “A Pure Heart”).