575) My Faith Looks Up to Thee


     Lowell Mason  (1792-1872)

     Lowell Mason lived in the early years of this country’s history.  He was born during the presidency of George Washington.  Mason’s passion was church music.  He loved to direct church choirs, he loved to teach Christian music to young people, and he loved to write music.  The only problem was he did not much time for any of that.  Mason was not yet making any money with his music, so he had to work at another job.  Fifty hours of the week he had to be at his job working at a bank.  He labored at both his job and his dream for 16 years.  Then he decided it was time to try making a living at his dream.  He quit the bank, moved to Boston, and started writing music full time.  He would try and make a go of it by publishing hymnals of old and new hymns.  He could come up with music that people would buy, but he needed to find words; he needed to find people who could write good lyrics to go with his good tunes.  Thus, he was always scouting around, looking for verses he could put to music.

     One day he ran in to a young friend, Ray Palmer.  Ray was a 23 year old seminary student who, along with studying full time, was working two jobs to support himself.  Mason remembered that Palmer was a good writer.  Mason asked if Palmer wanted to try writing some verses to go with his music for a new hymnal he was trying to get published.  Palmer said he was already burning the candle at both ends, and was too exhausted to think about writing anything creative or new.  Palmer then thought for a moment, and then took a brown notebook out of his pocket and showed Mason a little poem he had written a couple years before.  It was not written to be a hymn, said Palmer, just a personal prayer for renewed courage and zeal, written during a tough time of loneliness and illness.  “But,” Palmer said to Mason, “if you think you can make something out of it, go ahead.”

     Mason liked the poem and took it home.  That very night worked up a tune to go with it.  The next time he saw Palmer, Mason said to him, “Ray, you might live a good many years, and go on to do many great things, but I think you will be remembered most for writing this hymn.”  The hymn, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” went into Mason’s newly published hymnal– and it has been in practically every hymnal ever since.  It has been called the first great American hymn.  Ray Palmer did go on to do many other great things– as a pastor, writer, and translator of more hymns, and, he became an expert in Christian worship and music, quoted yet today in scholarly writings.  But the greatest accomplishment of his life was written when he was a down and out, lonely and depressed 21 year old student.

     Palmer said, “The words for these stanzas were born out of my own soul with very little effort but with much tender emotion.”  They were written not originally for a hymnal, but as his own private prayer.  And all four verses do indeed make up a powerful prayer that can be said or sung anytime.

Ray Palmer  (1808-1872)


Psalm 121:1-2  —  I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth.

Mark 9:24  —  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Revelation 21:4  —  (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.



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 over me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!


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