“I need Thee every hour” – But in some hours I need Thee more!
In 1849 Annie Sherwood Hawks was 14 years old and her poems were already being published in newspapers across the country. She had an evident gift for putting feelings into words and there was plenty to feel in her America. Annie’s nation was divided over the issue of slavery and before her 26th birthday, Civil War broke out … she continued writing.
Annie is best known for the words she wrote in attempts to share her faith in Jesus Christ and her trust in God. Annie was born in New York and grew up attending Sunday School and Church at Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn where Robert Lowry was pastor. Annie would write the words and give them to Pastor Lowry who would set them to music.
Such was the birth of the old hymn I found myself singing this week: “I Need Thee Every Hour”. In describing how she came by these words Annie wrote:
“One day… I was busy with my regular household tasks. 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, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me.”
After Pastor Lowry set these words to music he presented the new hymn to the Baptist Convention which was held in Cincinnati that year. It was quickly and gratefully adopted and published for use in Sunday Schools to teach personal dependence on Christ. Some years later, after the death of her husband, Annie made reference to this particular hymn again:
“I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long 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.”
Annie gained revelation that we, even in times of personal serenity and peace, are surrounded by others who are in such great need. Our words of comfort serve to encourage them and, when it comes our time of need, these same words return to us to comfort our souls as well.
This sweet chorus reminds us to draw near to Jesus both in the good times as well as the bad:
I need Thee, oh I need Thee
Every hour I need Thee
Oh bless me now my Savior
I come to Thee
On April the 12th, 1861, Civil War was declared between the north and the south. Families were divided and men from all walks of life, the young and the old, entered the fight. Over the next few years the nation was devastated and things seemed to only be getting worse. The United States of America, this “One Nation Under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” looked on the brink of total destruction. America was in her greatest hour of need and one man realized the answer.
In October of 1863, with another winter of battles drawing near, President Abraham Lincoln made a declaration in his earnest effort to turn the tide. Interestingly Lincoln made his proclamation on October the 3rd, 1863. There had been another presidential proclamation made October 3rd a few years earlier in 1789. It was on that date that President George Washington implored the citizens of the United States to participate in a day of public thanksgiving and prayer “To acknowledge the providence of Almighty God (and) … unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” Both Washington and Lincoln chose the same date on which to celebrate their first proclaimed National Day of Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 26th. Washington in 1789 on one of the greatest days of our nation and Lincoln in 1863 on one of the worst days of our nation. Lincoln went one step further however, and saw the great continuing need and thus established the last Thursday of every November as a national day of thanksgiving. His proclamation remains to this day. Allow me to read what President Lincoln wrote:
1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation
1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.
We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.
October 3, 1863
It took another year and a half before the Civil War officially ended. Many people imagine and historians have settled on their belief that the turning point of the war was the delivery of the “Gettysburg Address” by President Abraham Lincoln. I too was taught to hold this view in my American History studies. Yet, I do not now embrace this belief.
You see, the Gettysburg Address was delivered on a Thursday, the 19th day of November, 1863, 150 years ago this past week. I agree that things changed drastically for the better right afterwards: morale was boosted; battle outcomes seemed predestined; a renewed sense of purpose filled the ranks and the nation; and, things just felt different. It was as though a decision had been made on high to end slavery and keep the United States of America united … everything afterwards was simply destiny playing itself out.
If everything seemed to pivot around that time frame, why don’t I imagine the Gettysburg address did the trick? Because I look to a power that is higher than the man who was making that speech. I dearly love the words and sentiments of the Gettysburg Address and believe it had great impact, however, we should remember that when this speech was given, the whole country was preparing to celebrate a National Day of Thanksgiving to God in which our President publicly acknowledged our national sins, asked the nation to repent and we fell upon the sure mercies of our Heavenly Father.
Only one week after the Gettysburg Address, and 7 weeks after that Presidential Decree, on Thursday, November 26, 1863, American families paused in their homes to recognize their need for a Savior, to seek His face, to turn from their wicked ways and to be thankful and praise His name. This is what turned the tide and saved the United States of America.
I truly believe God gave our nation reprieve from the punishments we so greatly deserved. And today, I believe it can happen again …
“I need Thee every hour” … but in some hours we need Him more …
This is the hour of need for our generation, not only in America but also across the whole world. Nation after nation has forgotten God and His gracious hand and vainly imagined the blessings they have enjoyed were produced by some superior wisdom or virtue of their own. Nations, politicians, business leaders, fathers and families have become too proud to pray to the God who made us.
Together we can change our world just as the citizens of so many cities, nations and generations have done throughout history. From Nineveh to the United States of America, when people turn to the Lord, He hears their cry, forgives their sins and heals their land.
In remembrance of our forefathers and our fathers of faith, and in recognition of our desperate need, turn with me to 2 Chronicles 7:14 – let’s pray together once again and trust that God will hear our sincere cry.
2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
(Prayer) … “I need Thee every hour – but today I need Thee more”
Annie Hawks wrote more than 400 hymns in her lifetime. After the civil war she wrote another song entitled, “He Needs Me Every Hour”.
Annie realized later in life that not only do we need Jesus, but He also needs us!
I challenge each of us, as did Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, to recognize our individual and our national need for a Savior and come to Christ … Be repentant; Be thankful; and Be blessed!