Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5 (KJV)
You don't often think of hymns being written by a 37-year-old homemaker, mother of three, from Brooklyn, but that's the story of this hymn.
At a very early age, Annie Sherwood displayed a gift for writing verse and by the age of 14 was contributing poetry regularly to various newspapers. She wrote more than 400 poems, though this hymn text is the only one still in common usage.
In 1857, she married Charles Hawks, and they established their home in Brooklyn, joining Dr. Robert Lowry's Hanson Place Baptist Church. (Dr. Lowry wrote many hymns, most famous of which is "Shall We Gather at the River.") With Lowry's encouragement, Annie began writing Sunday school songs for children, and he set many of them to music.
"I Need Thee Every Hour" was written on a bright June morning in 1872. Annie later wrote, "One day I was busy with my regular household tasks. Suddenly, I became so filled with a sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, the words 'I Need Thee Every Hour' were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me. Seating myself by the open window in the balmy air, I caught up my pencil and the words were soon committed to paper."
The next Sunday, Annie handed the words to Dr. Lowry, who wrote the tune while seated at the organ in the living room of his Brooklyn parsonage. Lowry also added a refrain as he had the conviction that a chorus was necessary for any hymn to provide an opportunity for children to be part of congregational singing. Later that year, the hymn was sung for the first time at the National Baptist Sunday School Association meeting in Cincinnati, and published in a hymnbook the following year.
When Annie's husband died 16 years later, she found that her own hymn was among her greatest comforts. Hawks reflected, "It was not until years later, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of a great loss, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace."
God often allows each of us to learn in the sunshine what we will need to lean on in the darkness.
Prayer for Today
(From Psalm 86:1-4)
Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help. Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly. Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you. Amen.