Keeping the Hymns Close By

My Faith Looks Up To Thee

Author – Ray Palmer, 1808 – 1887
Composer – Lowell Mason, 1792 – 1872
The hymn was first published in 1832

In whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.
Ephesians 3:12 (NASB)

Ray Palmer was born in 1808 in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Ray was forced to discontinue his schooling at the age of thirteen and take a job as a store clerk in Boston. He began attending church and accepted Christ as his Savior. Soon he felt the call of God to become a minister of the Gospel. He resumed his education and graduated from Yale University in 1830.

Several months after his graduation, Palmer wrote the text for this hymn. He had experienced a very discouraging year in which he battled illness and loneliness. One night as he read a German poem picturing a needy sinner kneeling before the cross, Palmer was so moved, that he translated the lines into English and shortly added the four stanzas that eventually formed the text for “My Faith Looks Up To Thee.”

He copied the verses into his small notebook that he always carried with him and thought no more about the lines, except to read them occasionally for his own devotions. Two years later, he was visiting in Boston when he met on a busy street, his friend, Dr. Lowell Mason. Dr. Mason asked Palmer if he knew of any good texts that could be used for a new hymnal that Mason was in the process of compiling. Hesitatingly, Palmer showed the noted musician his little notebook. Mason made a copy of it. Several days later they met again and Mason said, “Mr. Palmer, you may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best-known to posterity as the author of “My Faith Looks Up To Thee.”

Lowell Mason composed a melody for this text. The hymn in its present form first appeared in print that same year, 1832.

Mr. Palmer received his doctorate a few years later and pastored two churches in the East for thirty years. He authored several popular volumes of religious verse and devotional essays. He also wrote thirty-seven other hymns. Yet Ray Palmer is best remembered today for his first hymn, written when he was only twenty-two years of age.
Lowell Mason contributed the music for approximately 700 hymn texts, was involved in the compilation of more than eighty song and hymnbook collections, and was instrumental in introducing music into the public schools of Boston in 1838. He is the composer of “A Charge to Keep I Have”, “Nearer My God To Thee” and “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross”.

The literary talents of Ray Palmer and the musical abilities of Lowell Mason were blended together to give birth to one of the finest hymns that tells of the necessity of placing our implicit trust and confidence in the finished work of Christ.

Taken from 101 More Hymn Stories Copyright © 1985, 2013 by Kenneth W. Osbeck. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission. All rights reserved.