Hymn Story: More Love to Thee
Elizabeth Prentiss, wife of a Presbyterian minister, spent much of her life as an invalid, “scarcely knowing a moment free of pain”.
She was described as friend as “a very bright-eyed little woman with a keen sense of humor, who cared more to shine in her own happy household than in a wide circle of society.”
Elizabeth wrote this hymn during a time of great personal sorrow, shortly after the death of two of her children within a very short period of time. She is said to have been inconsolable for week.
She wrote in her diary, “empty hands, a worn-out, exhausted body and unutterable longing to flee from a world that has so many sharp experiences”.
She also wrote “to love Christ more is the deepest need, the constant cry of my soul…out in the woods, and on my bed, and out driving, when I am happy and busy, and when I am sad and idle, the whisper keeps going up for more love, more love, more love!”
She began meditating on the story of Jacob in the Old Testament during her grief. Noting how God met him in a special way, she prayed earnestly for a similar experience.
While meditating and praying one evening the words of this hymn were born.
She was so inspired by Sarah Adam’s hymn Nearer My God to Thee, that she used an “almost identical” metrical pattern.
Prentiss wrote her song in one sitting, but did not show it to anyone for thirteen years. The poem was published in leaflet form in 1869 and the hymn was first published in the 1870 hymnals Songs of Devotion for Christian Associations.
Elizabeth Prentiss died on August 13, 1878, leaving her husband and four surviving children behind.
William Doane composed the music for the hymn.