MY FAITH LOOKS UP TO THEE
Ray Palmer, 1808–1887
In whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:12 RSV)
“My Faith Looks Up to Thee” was written in 1832 by Ray Palmer, a 22-year-old school teacher. Several months after his graduation from Yale University and while still living with the family of the lady who directed the girls’ school where he taught, Palmer wrote the text for this hymn. He had experienced a very discouraging year in which he battled illness and loneliness.
The words for these stanzas were born out of my own soul with very little effort. I recall that I wrote the verses with tender emotion. There was not the slightest thought of writing for another eye, least of all writing a hymn for Christian worship. It is well-remembered that when writing the last line, “Oh, bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!” the thought of the whole work of redemption and salvation was involved in those words, and suggested the theme of eternal praises, and this brought me to a degree of emotion that brought abundant tears.
Two years later, while visiting in Boston, Palmer chanced to meet his friend, Lowell Mason, a well-known name in musical circles during this time. Upon seeing Ray Palmer’s text, Mason stated: “Palmer, you may live many years and do many good things, but I think you will be best-known to posterity as the author of ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee’.” Lowell Mason composed a melody for this text, a tune which he called “Olivet” in reference to the hymn’s message. Soon the hymn appeared in its present form in a hymnal edited by Mason. And from that time on this musical expression has had an important place in nearly every hymnal that has been published:
My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine; now hear me when I pray, take all my sin away; O let me from this day be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impart strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire; as Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee pure, warm and changeless be—a living fire!
While life’s dark maze I tread and griefs around me spread, be Thou my guide; bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away, nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.
When ends life’s transient dream, when death’s cold sullen stream shall o’er me roll, Blest Savior, then, in love, fear and distrust remove—O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul.
For Today: Psalm 118:8, 9; Romans 1:17; 5:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 12:9
Reflect on this statement—Faith is simply learning to say “Amen” (so be it!) to God. Express your faith by singing—