Behind the Hymn: Moment by Moment

Major Daniel Webster Whittle

Moment by Moment was another hymn written by Major Daniel Webster Whittle. He is also the author of I Know Whom I Have Believed.

Ira Sankey recounted that while at the World’s Fair in Chicago, Rev. Henry Varley stated “I do not like the hymn, I Need Thee Every Hour.  I need him Moment by Moment.”

Major Whittle was impressed with the thought that after the prayer session he went to his room and wrote the hymn Moment by Moment.  He worked on writing and rewriting the hymn until 2am.  The next day he brought it to Sankey.

Sankey recounts:

Mr. Whittle brought the hymn to me in manuscript a little later, saying that he would give me the copyright of both the words and music if I would print for him five hundred copies on fine paper, for distributing among his friends. His daughter, May Whittle, who later became the wife of Will R. Moody, composed the music. I did as Mr. Whittle wished; and I sent the hymn to England, where it was copyrighted on the same day as at Washington.

In England the hymn became very popular. Falling into the hands of the well-known Rev. Andrew Murray, of South Africa, then visiting London, he adopted it as his favorite hymn. A year later Mr. Murray visited Northfield, and while holding a meeting for men in the church he remarked: “If Sankey only knew a hymn which I found in London, and would sing it, he would find that it embraces my entire creed.”

I was very anxious to know what hymn it was, and when he had recited it I said to him: “Doctor, that hymn was written within five hundred yards of where we are standing.”

For years Dr. Murray had his wife sing this hymn in nearly all his meetings. It also became a great favorite in South Africa during the war.

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