My Faith Looks Up to Thee | Ray Palmer

My faith looks up to thee, 
thou Lamb of Calvary, 
Savior divine:
now hear me while I pray,
take all my guilt 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.

This inspiring poem was penned by Ray Palmer in the early 1800s before he became a pastor. We sang the hymn based on his poem in our worship services last Sunday and I was moved again by its words. Palmer offers us a beautiful, enduring prayer in this poem. It is clearly written from a place of honesty and angst, but also from a depth of faith and trust in God. This is perhaps why it still speaks to so many of us Christians all these years later.

According to Robert J. Morgan in “Then Sings My Soul,” Palmer’s poem “was a personal prayer for renewed zeal and courage, composed in his rented room one night in 1830 when he had felt sick, tired, and lonely.” It was later shared with his friend, Lowell Mason, who set it to music and included it in the hymnal he was preparing. It quickly became a popular hymn that remains as popular as ever. Palmer, again in Morgan’s book, “later explained that he had wept that winter’s evening upon finishing this poem: ‘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.’” 

When we sang this hymn in our worship last Sunday, I was so touched by the words that I wanted to look up them and learn a little more. And so I thought I would share it with you here. “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” is a poem and a hymn, but most of all I think that it is a prayer. It is a heartfelt prayer fitting for all who travel “life’s dark maze,” and for all whose zeal may be in short supply these days. As griefs around us spread, which they do now as they always have, may we look up in faith to our blest Savior who longs to wipe away our tears. And may our faith in him offer renewed strength to our fainting hearts, so that our love for him might become again a living fire.

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