“I Need Thee Every Hour”
“I Need Thee Every Hour” stands out among the thousands of hymns as one of the most intimate and worshipful songs in our hymnals. It reflects our absolute need for and dependance on our Saviour. It so beautifully states that Christ is everything.
“I Need Thee Every Hour” was written in 1872 by Mrs. Annie Hawks. Annie Sherwood Hawks was born on May 28, 1835 in Hoosick, New York. She displayed a remarkable talent for poetry at an early age with her writings already being published in various newspapers at the tender age of 14. After her marriage to Charles Hawks in 1859, Annie’s life was centered around the noble tasks of being a housewife and a mother to their three children. The Hawks were members of Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklin, New York. Their pastor, Dr. Robert Lowry, was a well known hymn writer, and he encouraged Annie to use her talents as a poet to write hymns and offered to compose music for her lyrics.
Here are Mrs. Hawks’ own words describing how “I Need Thee Every Hour” came to be:
“I remember well the circumstances under which I wrote the 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. Suddenly, I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words were ushered into my mind the thought at once taking full possession of me.
Seating myself by the open windows, I caught up my pencil and committed the words to paper — almost as they are today. A few months later, Dr. Robert Lowry composed the tune needed for my hymn and also added the refrain.
For myself, the hymn, at its writing, was prophetic rather than expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of great personal sorrow, with which it has often been associated.
At first I did not understand why the hymn so greatly touched the throbbing heart of humanity. Years later [after her husbands death in 1888], however, under the shadow of a great loss, I came to understand something of the comforting power of the words I had been permitted to give out to others in my hours of sweet serenity and peace.”
Mrs. Hawks presented her new hymn to her pastor the following Sunday after writing it, and Dr. Lowry would go on to write the refrain(chorus) and compose the tune to the song on his organ at his home.
Just a few months later in November, 1872, Ira Sankey, the beloved revival musician and song leader for Dwight Moody, used this hymn at the National Baptist Sunday School Association Convention. It then appeared in its first hymnbook the next year which was called Royal Diadem for the Sunday School.
Annie Hawks passed away on January 3, 1918. In her eighty-two plus years, Mrs. Hawks wrote about 400 hymns. “I Need Thee Every Hour” is the most famous and is the only widely used hymn of her writings today.