Posted by: rcottrill | July 4, 2012

I Need Thee Every Hour

Words: Annie Sherwood Hawks (b. May 28, 1836; d. Jan. 3, 1918)
Music: Robert Lowry (Mar. 12, 1826; d. Nov. 25, 1899)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Robert Lowry was Mrs. Hawks’s pastor. She gave the text of her hymn to him, and he supplied the tune. The original had five stanzas, but for some reason most hymn books I’ve seen omit CH-4, which adds a significant thought.

CH-4) I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfil.

When it was first published, Annie Hawks’s hymn was headed by John 15:5 (Jesus speaking), “Without Me you can do nothing.” The text is found in what is sometimes called the Upper Room Discourse, the Lord’s teaching passed on to His disciples, just hours before He was crucified. John 15:1-16 deals with a kind of parable or extended metaphor about The Vine and the Branches.

The Lord Jesus compares Himself to a grape vine (vs. 1), and His disciples to branches of the vine (vs. 5). It is from the vine that the branches receive life and nourishment, enabling them to bear fruit. In the same way, it is as we remain in intimate fellowship with the Lord that His people are equipped and energized to bear spiritual fruit. This is also the basis for effective prayer (vs. 7), since it is how our desires are conformed to His will (cf. I Jn. 5:14).

Fruit-bearing is God’s will for His followers (Jn. 15:16). And we can think of this in two particular ways. There is the inner fruit of Christ-like character that the Lord wants to see produced in us (cf. Gal. 5:22-23), and the outward fruit of our impact on the lives of others, through our own witness and service for Christ (cf. Rom. 1:13; Col. 1:10). For both to happen we need the ongoing and continual ministration of the Lord in our lives, through His Spirit.

CH-1) 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.

Mrs. Hawks identifies two particular things that can hinder our fruitfulness: sin and suffering. When we succumb to temptation, our sin breaks that intimacy of fellowship with the Lord that’s so essential if we’re to be fruitful. It’s not that we lose our salvation at such times. But there is certainly a loss of power and spiritual effectiveness, and a loss of joy in the Lord.

Suffering’s effect is a little different. Severe and extended suffering robs us of energy, and it can bring discouragement, a sense of inadequacy, even challenging our sense of worth. Often we are more vulnerable to temptation at such times, as well. But the Lord can prepare us to triumph, even then (Phil. 4:13).

It was in just such a state that, by the grace of God, Charlotte Elliott wrote the words of the hymn Just As I Am, some thirty-six years before the present hymn was written. Miss Elliot commented:

“He knows, and He alone, what it is, day after day, hour after hour, to fight against bodily feelings of almost overpowering weakness, languor and exhaustion, to resolve not to yield to slothfulness, depression and instability.”

Though Annie Hawks didn’t realize it at the time when she wrote her hymn, this struggle would be hers too, in later years, and she would understand in a new way why her song had been an unusual blessing to so many.

CH-2) I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

CH-3) I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

1) In what circumstances during the past week have you especially sensed your need of the Lord?

2) Sometimes the special ministry of the Lord to a needy individual is conveyed through a Christian brother or sister. Is there someone you could help in this way today?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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