Several of the hymn stories in this book relate the trying
experiences of the children of God and how their afflictions have been
the material from which great hymns were written.
However, here's one which came into being through completely different
and happier circumstances. It makes a refreshing and interesting
Annie Sherwood Hawks was bom in Hoosick, New York, on 28th May 1835.
Even from an early age she was writing poetry and, at 14, had some
published in a newspaper.
When she married, at 24, she moved to live in the Brooklyn area of New
York. There, she and her husband joined the church whose pastor was
the noted hymn writer and composer, Dr. Robert S. Lowry.
Dr. Lowry immediately recognised Mrs Hawks talent for writing and
encouraged her to use it. In fact he even offered her a challenge. 'If
you'll write the words,' he said, I'll write the music,' and he was as
good as his word.
"I Need Thee Every Hour", was written in April 1872 and is thought to
have been based on the exhortation of Jesus in John 15 verses 4 and 5.
'Abide in me, and I in you. As the
branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
except it abide in the vine; no more can
ye, except ye abide in me. I am the
vine, ye are the branches: he that
abideth in me, I am in him, the same
bringeth forth much fruit: for without
me ye can do nothing.'
The new hymn was first performed in November that year at the National
Sunday School Convention in Cincinatti, Ohio. Very soon it was taken
up by the famous evangelistic team of Moody and Sankey, who, it seems
likely, did most to make it popular. It was translated into many other
languages too; and even featured in the great Chicago World's Fair.
But what about the actual penning of those comforting lines?
Well, a short time before her death, on January 3rd 1918, Mrs Hawkes
gave the full background story. I quote her own words.
'I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the hymn. It
was a bright June day, and I became so filled with the sense of the
nearness of my Master that I began to wonder how anyone could live
without Him, in either joy or pain. Suddenly, the words I need Thee
every hour, flashed into my mind, and very quickly the thought had
full possession of me.
Seating myself by the open windows, I caught up my pencil and
committed the words to paper - almost as they are today. A few months
later Dr. Robert Lowry composed the tune Need, for my hymn and also
added the refrain.
For myself, the hymn, at its writing, was prophetic rather than
expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world
on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of great
personal sorrow, with which it has often been associated.
At first I did not understand why the hymn so greatly touched the
throbbing heart of humanity. Years later, however, under the shadow of
a great loss, I came to understand something of the comforting power
of the words 1 had been permitted to give out to others in my hours of
sweet serenity and peace.'
It must have given the talented lady great satisfaction to write
something which has been such a blessing to so many.
I need Thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine,
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee!
Every hour I need Thee:
O bless me now my Saviour!
I come to Thee.