Behind the Hymn Sunday: Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Thomas Andrew Dorsey

Thomas Andrew Dorsey

Thomas Andrew Dorsey experienced tremendous loss and sadness when he received word that his wife and newborn son died. In August 1932, at the time of their death he was at a revival meeting in St. Louis, Missouri and notified of his loss by telegram. He was left deeply depressed. Dorsey grew up a preacher’s kid but turned away from God when he grew older.

He spent several years writing jazz and blues pieces. “After he was miraculously spared in brushes with death” he returned to God while attending the National Baptist Convention in Chicago in 1921. He began to write gospel songs after his conversion.

The telegram he was handed said “Your wife just died.” A friend drove him through the night when he discovered his son had also died. Upon hearing the news of his loss he cried out “God, you’re not worth a dime to me right now.” The next Saturday, he reported that a strange calm came over him. A few weeks later he wrote this heart wrenching hymn. Precious Lord, Take My Hand was performed at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in South Chicago, Illinois for the first time. Reportedly the song was inspired by the 1844 hymn “Maitland” by American composer, George N. Allen.

Precious LordPrecious Lord, Take My Hand was one of over 250 gospel songs Thomas Dorsey wrote.  Dorsey is also the author of the song “Peace in the Valley.”

Precious Lord, Take My Hand has been published in over forty languages. The hymn was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr favorite songs. His last words before being shot was to play this song at a mass he was supposed to attend that night.

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