“I Need Thee Every Hour”

"O Lord, hear me; for I am poor and needy" (Psa. 86.1)

     INTRO.: An often-sung hymn which expresses the idea of needing the Lord, especially in prayer, is "I Need Thee Every Hour" (#63 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #52 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Mrs. Annie Sherwood Hawks, who was born at Hoosick, a tiny town in upstate New York, on May 28, 1836, to Marvin and Carolyn Bradt Sherwood. As a child, she loved poetry and at a very early age displayed a gift for writing verse. Beginning her career as a poet while still in
grammar school, by age 14 she was contributing regularly to various newspapers. In 1859, at the age of 24, she married Charles Hawks, and the couple moved to Brooklyn, NY,

     There, the new Mrs. Hawks became a member of the Hanson Place Baptist Church, where the minister was Robert Lowry (1826-1899). Lowry himself was a poet and the author of several well-known hymns, such as "Shall We Gather at the River" and "Christ Arose." He encouraged her to continue her poetic efforts. The Hawks had three children, and Annie often produced hymns out of her daily experiences as an ordinary housewife and mother. One bright June morning in 1872, she was busy with her usual household chores when she was suddenly struck with a consciousness of the Lord’s nearness and immediately penned these words to express her joy at the constant companionship of her Master in her everyday activities. Afterward, she showed them to Mr. Lowry, who composed the tune (Need) added the chorus.

     The hymn first appeared later that year in a small collection of hymns prepared for the National Baptist Sunday School Convention held at Cincinnati, OH, and won almost universal acceptance. In 1888, sixteen years later, Mrs. Hawks suffered the death of her husband. Some time afterwards, she wrote of that event, "I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long years after…that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out." Following the death of her husband, Annie spent her remaining years with her daughter and son-in-law at Bennington, VT, where she died on Jan. 3, 1919, at the age of 83.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The thought of the hymn is quite simple and requires little explanation.

I. According to stanza 1, we need the Lord because only His voice can bring peace
"I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford."
 A. He is a gracious Lord: Psa. 86.15
 B. He graciously speaks to us, figuratively, with a tender voice: Jn. 5.25
 C. And that voice brings peace so that those who truly trust in the Lord and call on Him can have the peace of God that passes all understanding: Phil. 4.4-7

II. According to stanza 2, we need the Lord in times of temptation
"I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh."
 A. We should want the Lord to stay by us at all times, and He has promised that He will do so: Heb. 13.5-6
 B. And as He stays by us, He will help us to bear our temptations and provide for all our spiritual needs: 1 Cor. 10.12-13
 C. But if we want Him to stay by us and help in our temptations, we must continue to draw near to Him: Heb. 10.22, Jas. 4.8

III. According to stanza 3, we need the Lord to abide with us in both joy and pain
"I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain."
 A. Life is filled with its share of both happiness and sorrow: Phil. 4.11-12
 B. But whatever happens, we should want the Lord to abide with us: Jn. 15.4-5
 C. And regardless of what does happen, if the Lord does not abide with us, the our lives are vain: 1 Cor. 15.12-19

IV. According to stanza 4, we need the Lord to help us know and do His will
"I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill."
 A. God wants us to know His will: Jn. 7:17
 B. He has made many exceedingly great and precious promises to us: 2 Pet. 1:3-4
 C. If we strive to do His will, He will fulfill those promises in us: Phil. 1:6

V. According to stanza 5, we need the Lord in order that we might fully belong to Him
"I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessèd Son."
 A. He is the Holy One: Mk. 1.24, Acts 3.14
 B. Therefore, we should want to be made His: 1 Cor. 3.21-23
 C. And by being His, who is the Blessed Son, we in fact belong to God: 1 Jn. 5.11

     CONCL.: Lowry’s chorus provides a fitteing conclusion to Mrs. Hawks’ observations, emphasizing the fact that we need the Lord to bless us in this life.
"I need Thee, O I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.
This song is frequently sung before prayer because it reminds me that when I talk to God, whether in peace and happiness or in tribulation and grief, I should humbly tell Him, "I Need Thee Every Hour."


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