I Need Thee Every Hour: A Story
Annie Sherwood Hawks was an American poet and gospel hymnist born on May 28, 1835. Many of her poems were written with the help of her pastor, Robert Lowry. Her most acclaimed poem is called “I Need Thee Every Hour.” She wrote the poem in 1872. She expressed her deep relationship and intimacy with the Lord in her words.
Hawks started writing verses at the age of 14, contributing poems regularly to a variety of newspapers. She has written a sum of 400 hymns during her time, but I Need Thee Every Hour is the only hymn remained being sung today.
She married Charles Hawks in 1859 and had three children whom she’d devoted most of her time. She met the pastor who encouraged her to write more poems, Dr. Robert Lowry, at Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. According to a personal account of the genesis of “I Need Thee Every Hour,” Hawks had written the poem on a bright June morning in 1872. She was suddenly filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that she wondered how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain. She said, “These words were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession me – ‘I Need Thee Every Hour…’”
It was Robert Lowry who added a refrain as he wrote the tune for the song. The song was used at the National Baptist Sunday School Association Convention by Ira Sankey in 1872. Later on, the song appeared in Royal Diadem for the Sunday School, an 1873 collection compiled by Lowry and William Doane. The phrase “I need thee” was repeated twenty times with the refrain added, making it at the center of the intimacy expressed in the hymn.