Keeping the Hymns Close By

I Need Thee Every Hour​

Authors – Annie S. Hawks, 1835 – 1918
Chorus – Robert Lowry, 1826 – 1899
Composer – Robert Lowry, 1826 – 1899
Scripture Reference – John 15:5

In the day of my trouble I will call upon Thee; for Thou wilt answer me. Psalm 86:7

This deeply, personal hymn was written out of the daily experiences of a busy housewife and mother, Annie Hawks, in 1872.

Annie Sherwood Hawks was born in Hoosick, New York on May 28, 1835. At a very early age, she displayed a gift for writing verse and by the age of fourteen, was contributing poetry regularly to newspapers. She wrote more than 400 poems, but this hymn text is the only one still in common usuage. In 1859,

Annie married Charles Hawks, and much of her life centered on raising three children. She was a member of the Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, where Dr. Robert Lowry, a prominent writer of gospel songs was her pastor. Dr Pastor Lowry recognized Mrs. Hawks’ poetic gifts and encouraged her to use these abilities for writing hymn texts.
Annie has left the following account regarding the writing of this hymn:
“One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks during a bright June morning, in 1872. Suddenly, I became filled with the sense of nearness to the Master, and I began to wonder how anyone could ever live without Him, either in joy or pain,. Then, the words were ushered into my mind and these thoughts took full possession of me – “I need Thee every hour…”

Later, Mrs. Hawks showed these four stanzas to Dr. Lowry. He quickly composed the music for the verses and also added a refrain. Dr. Lowry had the conviction that a refrain or chorus was necessary for any hymn to give it completeness as well as to provide an opportunity for everyone, especially the children, to be part of the congregational singing. It was published in a hymnbook in 1873. The song was widely used and popularized by Ira Sankey in the D.L. Moody-Sankey campaigns, both in this country and throughout Great Britain.

Sixteen years after writing her hymn text, Mrs. Hawks experienced the death of her husband. She found that her own hymn was among her greatest comforts. “I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long years after, 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.”

Dr. Lowry served as a pastor at churches in Pennsylvania, New York City, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. Although he had no formal training in musical composition, he has contributed many hymns. From the soul and pen of the dedicated pastor-musician have come hymns favorites as “Christ Arose”, “Nothing But the Blood”, “Shall We Gather at the River”. He has composed just the music for the hymns: “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” and “We’re Marching to Zion”, the stirring text by Isaac Watts.

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.
Taken from Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan Copyright © 2003 Robert J. Morgan. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson
 

Annie S. Hawks

 

Robert Lowry