Stop and Think About a Hymn

Open Hymnal


My Faith Looks Up To Thee

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

By Ray Palmer

Text in the Public Domain




  • The hymn writer describes an attitude that looks to Jesus for faith and guidance in everything. What does the Bible say about this attitude? (See 2 Corinthians 5:7, John 14:5-6.
  • Why does the writer ask for strength through God’s grace instead of asserting a right to his request? What is zeal? How does the hymn writer describe zeal for Christ? How can a faithful follower of Christ express this kind of zeal without building a wall between himself and the people around him? Why don’t Christians want to build a wall of separation between themselves and all other people?
  • What experiences have you had that help you understand the author’s perception of life on earth as a “dark maze?” How would you explain to a secular thinker why you see the earth as a dark place?
  • Secularists believe that when they die, they simply stop living biologically and they have no further sentient existence. Their only concept of their further existence is that their molecules will be recycled by nature. How can you explain to a secularist why you believe that “death’s cold sullen stream” is not the end of your life?


I normally do not print the story of the hymns I post, but this story is extraordinary. The section about the Syrian Christian who came to the USA is especially relevant as we pray daily for the protection and the powerful testimony of Christian brothers and sisters in Syria.

Ray Palmer wrote these lyr­ics up­on re­ceiv­ing a vi­sion of Christ short­ly af­ter his grad­u­a­tion from Yale Un­i­ver­si­ty, while work­ing as a tu­tor at a New York school. How­ev­er, he kept them to him­self un­til meet­ing Low­ell Ma­son on a street in Bos­ton, Mas­sac­hu­setts. When Ma­son asked him to write some­thing for a new hymn­al, Palm­er dug out his old notes and pro­duced these lyr­ics, writ­ten two years ear­li­er. Af­ter tak­ing the lyr­ics home and read­ing them, Ma­son com­posed this tune. Sev­er­al days lat­er he saw Palm­er again and said: 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.

An interesting story con­nect­ed with this hymn:

Mrs. Lay­yah Bar­a­kat, a na­tive of Syr­ia, was ed­u­cat­ed in Bei­rut and then taught for a time in Egypt. Driv­en out in 1882 by the in­sur­rect­ion of Ara­bi Pa­sha, she, with her hus­band and child, came to Amer­i­ca by way of Mal­ta and Mar­seilles. Her his­to­ry is a strange il­lus­tra­tion of God’s pro­vi­den­tial care, as they were with­out any di­rect­ion or friends in Phil­a­del­phia when they land­ed. But the Lord took them into His own keep­ing, and brought them to those who had known of her in Syr­ia. While in this coun­try she fre­quent­ly ad­dressed large au­di­enc­es, to whom her deep ear­nest­ness and brok­en but pi­quant Eng­lish proved un­u­su­al­ly at­tract­ive. Among other in­ci­dents she re­lat­ed that she had been per­mit­ted to see the con­ver­sion of her whole fam­i­ly, who were Mar­o­nites of Mount Le­ba­non. Her mother, six­ty-two years of age, had been taught ‘My Faith Looks Up to Thee’ in Ar­a­bic. They would sit on the house roof and re­peat it to­ge­ther; and when the news came back to Syr­ia that the daugh­ter was safe in Amer­i­ca, the mo­ther could send her no bet­ter proof of her faith and love than in the beau­ti­ful words of this hymn, as­sur­ing her that her faith still looked up to Christ.

The source of this story is identified on the site as Sutherland, pp. 77-9. However, the link appears to be dead.

The background material and the story of the Syrian Christian are all taken from

Blog post created by Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at

Image: Open Hymnal
License: CC BY-NC-SA