One of the sweetest refrains in English Christian hymnody is this:
I need Thee, O I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.
Thank God for Annie S. Hawks who wrote these lyrics and her pastor, Robert Lowry, who composed the music. The lyrics could hardly be simpler, and yet they capture one of our heart’s most profound longings and can be prayed in the sweetest, most sorrowful, or most mundane moments in life. The prosody of the music, the way the melody and meter aligns with the wording, could hardly be more perfect.
But it is not the skill of the hymn’s construction that makes it so powerful. It is the colossal truth it so beautifully expresses.
O I Need Thee!
We need God.
It is not until we feel in the depths of our souls our utter poverty without Christ, our bankruptcy of any inherent righteousness, the impotence of our own strength and self-sufficient planning, our inconsolable loneliness when we are out of fellowship with God, the pathetic pretentiousness of our pathological pride, the hollow emptiness of all the godless gain of the world, our utter helplessness in the face of personal, institutional, cosmic, and molecular evil, that we know just how much we need God.
Yes, we need to feel our need. Where real need is not felt, there is rarely any real praying. When Paul tells us to keep “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication . . . for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18), it’s in the context of grasping the nature of the war we’re in and our helplessness without God in the face of the overwhelming power of our enemy.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them the Lord’s prayer as a sort of prayer template or structure (Luke 11:1–4). But in Acts 4:24–31, we see a prayerful exposition of “your kingdom come.” Those early Christians felt their desperate situation in the face of potentially lethal threats and cried out to God. And God answered, just as he promised:
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).
Desperation drove our ancient brothers and sisters to prayer and it’s what drives us to prayer too. Our places of desperation are the places of God’s revelation of his power (2 Corinthians 12:8).
Need drives us to prayer, and our need is great. We need God every hour and we need him to show us this level of need. If we’re not really praying, we must plead with God to teach us. And his answer likely will not be a new method but a heightened awareness of our desperate need. And when he does this for us it is a priceless gift to us. It is key to not wasting our lives. An unceasing awareness of our need leads to unceasing prayer. And the constant practice of praying will teach us the methods of prayer most helpful to us. And constant prayer leads to new breakthroughs.
O Bless Me Now, My Savior
“Come to me,” Jesus says to us, “all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus calls the desperate and burdened. He calls the sin-sick (Mark 2:17). These are the ones who know their need.
All the blessings of God the Father come through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I Come to Thee
When we feel deeply our need, not merely know it abstractly, we come to Christ. We come asking, seeking, knocking (Luke 11:9). We come alone and we come together. And we come continually, because we know we must abide in Christ our Vine or we won’t be able to do anything (John 15:5).
So let us come to Christ. Let us cry out to show us our need. Let us go to him for all our needs. And let us allow Annie Hawks and Robert Lowry to lead us in singing before the throne of grace this prayer that glorifies our triune God:
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.
I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.
I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessèd Son.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
A modern version of the hymn is provided by Indelible Grace and lyrics by Annie S. Hawks.