The words to this song were penned by T. O. Chisholm, and the music was composed by L. O. Sanderson. The hymn is more meaningful to me because my mother continually requested that I sing it to her while she lay dying of leukemia in late February and early March of 1993. Today, I find it difficult to sing because of that memory, but the prayer is still in my heart.
Be with me, Lord–I cannot live without Thee,
I dare not try to take one step alone.
I cannot bear the loads of life, unaided,
I need Thy strength to lean myself upon.
Be with me, Lord, and then if dangers threaten,
If storms of trial burst above my head,
If lashing seas leap everywhere about me,
They cannot harm, or make my heart afraid.
Be with me, Lord! No other gift or blessing
Thou couldst bestow could with this one compare—
A constant sense of Thy abiding presence,
Where e’er I am, to feel that Thou art near.
Be with me Lord, when loneliness o’er-takes me,
When I must weep amid the fires of pain,
And when shall come the hour of “my departure”
For “worlds unknown,” O Lord, be with me then.
Let us look at the various phrases of this prayer–part by part.
BE WITH ME, LORD–I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THEE,
Sometimes people who are with us can make us discouraged and make our hearts faint in the work we have to do.
- Joshua 14:8 Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God.
Some people depend upon other people to be with them and forget to depend upon God.
- Judges 4:8-9 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. And she (Deborah) said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
But if the Lord be with us, we, like Joshua, will prevail.
- Joshua 14:12 Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.
Jabez prayed that the Lord would be with him to keep him from evil, and the Lord granted his request.
- 1 Chron. 4:10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
Even though Job lost everything, he remembered the days when the Lord was with him.
- Job 29:2-7 Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle; When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me; When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil; When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!
David praised and thanked God because He was with him.
- Psa. 13:6 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.
- Psa. 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
- Psa. 42:7-8 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
What will be the result, if the Lord is with us?
- Jer. 20:11-13 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. But, O LORD of hosts that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.
Christ knew the power of having his disciples with him.
- Matt. 12:30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
- Luke 11:23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.
- Luke 22:28-30 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
- Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
- John 16:32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
- John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
When Paul was ready to be delivered to death, he knew the power of having a faithful, godly friend with him.
- 2 Tim. 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
- 2 Tim. 4:16-17 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
Finally, we see a glimpse of what it means to be with the Lord.
- Rev. 3:4-5 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
- Rev. 3:20-21 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
I DARE NOT TRY TO TAKE ONE STEP ALONE.
Being alone in the world can make us vulnerable to the enemy or to the elements.
- Eccl. 4:9-12 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
When we stand for the Lord and His ways, we often must stand alone.
- Jer. 15:17 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.
- Lam. 3:21-32 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
Jesus knew that He would be left alone in His greatest trial.
- John 16:32-33 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Paul knew that the faith of some would fail when they were left alone.
- 11:1-4 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
I CANNOT BEAR THE LOADS OF LIFE, UNAIDED,
Paul knew the power of God’s watchful care.
- 2 Tim. 3:10-12 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
- 2 Cor. 1:8-10 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;
Sometimes weakness in Christians makes them doubt that God can save them.
- Matt. 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
- Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
- Mark 10:27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
- Mark 14:36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
I NEED THY STRENGTH TO LEAN MYSELF UPON.
Daniel knew the power of God’s strength and protection.
- Dan. 6:20-22 And when he (King Darius) came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
The psalmist, David, knew the power of God’s strength.
- Psa. 27:12-14 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psa. 84:5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
BE WITH ME, LORD, AND THEN IF DANGERS THREATEN,
IF STORMS OF TRIAL BURST ABOVE MY HEAD,
Many are the examples of godly men and women, who trusted in the power of His might as they were faced with temptations. They were men and women of faith who overcame and were victorious. (Heb. 11:1-40)
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
IF LASHING SEAS LEAP EVERYWHERE ABOUT ME,
THEY CANNOT HARM, OR MAKE MY HEART AFRAID.
One of the most poignant accounts in the New Testament of Jesus’ protection is recounted in Mat. 14:32, Mark 6:51, and Mark 4:35-41. Here we see His powerful protection and love for the ones who served Him.
35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
BE WITH ME, LORD! NO OTHER GIFT OR BLESSING
THOU COULD’ST BESTOW COULD WITH THIS ONE COMPARE—
A CONSTANT SENSE OF THY ABIDING PRESENCE,
WHERE E’ER I AM, TO FEEL THAT THOU ART NEAR.
Moses knew he could never lead the nation of Israel without the presence of the Lord.
- Exod. 33:12-15 And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.
Jehoshaphat knew that the Lord’s presence was in the temple and that He would hear their cry when troubles came.
- 2 Chron. 20:6-9 And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever? And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying, If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
The Psalmist, David, knew where to find fullness of joy and true pleasures.
- Psa. 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
David’s sincere prayer was for God’s judgment and sentence to come from His presence.
- Psa. 17:1-3 Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal. Thou has proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou has tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
David knew that he had to have a clean heart and a right spirit in order to remain in God’s presence.
- Psa. 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
David asks who will dwell with God and who will be in His presence?
- Psa. 140:13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.
Isaiah is asking God to come down and tell them more of His truth, like he did on Mt. Sinai and reveal what He has prepared for those that wait on Him. (see also 1 Cor. 2:9)
- Isa. 64:1-4 Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
Those who yearn to live in the presence of the Lord must meet certain qualifications or be forever cast out.
- Luke 13:24-27 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
BE WITH ME LORD, WHEN LONELINESS O’ER-TAKES ME,
WHEN I MUST WEEP AMID THE FIRES OF PAIN,
AND WHEN SHALL COME THE HOUR OF “MY DEPARTURE”
FOR “WORLDS UNKNOWN,” O LORD, BE WITH ME THEN.
Many were the tests and procedures which my mother had to endure, but when she called us to come home from India, all she said was, “The nights are long, and I am afraid.” The last verse of this prayer song seemed to embody what she felt at the prospect of death.
Now would come the questions of what kind of building she had made and what kind of fruits she had borne.
- 1 Cor. 3:10-15 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
- Rev. 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Like Paul, she wanted to be able to say:
- 2 Tim. 4:6-8 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.