Mercies Multiplied

When in the night I meditate
On mercies multiplied,
My grateful heart inspires my tongue
To bless the Lord, my Guide.

It was night, and I was meditating in some fashion, but my heart was not grateful, and “mercies multiplied” were far from my mind.  I had no intention of blessing the Lord.  I was desperately trying to finish a three-week-long school project, and the deadline at midnight was quickly approaching.  Problem after problem kept popping up, and I was convinced that my efforts were doomed.  Giving thanks was not high on my list of priorities.  But for some reason, those words from Psalm 16 were running through my head.

At one point in the evening, I realized that I was getting nowhere, and that the best thing I could do for myself would be to take a short break.  With those words still in my head, then, I sat down at the organ and played number 22 from the Psalter Hymnal—the source of that paraphrase of Psalm 16.  I had heard this song many times before, at church and on CDs, but tonight it sounded different—it sounded very familiar…as if I had heard it somewhere else…

Suddenly another set of lyrics came to mind:

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, help me stand…

It took me a few more moments to realize that both texts were sung to the same tune!  Somehow, despite the many times I had heard and played both songs, I never discovered this connection between them.   As a church musician, I tend to find this sort of discovery intriguing.  But that night, the connection really mattered—because I urgently needed to hear what both of these songs had to say.

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (number 493 in the gray Psalter Hymnal) is a simple hymn, not theologically deep or poetically complex.  It’s nothing but the earnest prayer of a soul that is weary of the cares of the world.  Reaching down to the afflicted and lifting them up, this hymn presents a childlike yet unshakeable faith in God—the kind of faith we all need more and more.

Reacting to the comfort described in this hymn, Psalm 16 reflects the believer’s trust that God will always provide for them.  Again, the message is simple, but the confidence of the psalmist permeates each verse.  Without a doubt, he is sure that God will preserve him through every trouble he must undergo.  How we suffer if we do not share this confidence!

I had hoped to include the complete text of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” here, alongside Psalm 16, for your comparison.  Unfortunately, the hymn is still under copyright restrictions, but you can probably find a copy of the text somewhere to read for yourself (depending on what hymnals you have handy).  The last three verses of the Psalm 16 versification are especially complementary to the message of this gospel song:

(3) Mine inmost being thrills with joy
And gladness fills my breast;
Because on Him my trust is stayed,
My flesh in hope shall rest.

(4) I know that I shall not be left
Forgotten in the grave,
That from corruption Thou, O Lord,
Thy Holy One wilt save.

(5) The path of life Thou showest me;
Of joy a boundless store
Is ever found at Thy right hand,
And pleasures evermore.

Was gospel songwriter Thomas Dorsey aware that this version of Psalm 16 (appearing first in the 1912 Psalter) was sung to the very same tune he adapted for his own hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” more than 25 years later?  At the very least, this was a providential coincidence, prompting me to look back at my foolish attitude from a different perspective.  How humbling it was to remember that my whole life is completely dependent on God!  How comforting to rest in the hope that comes only from trusting him!

My seemingly insurmountable problems that evening were completely insignificant compared to the trials we must face in this sin-cursed world.  Still, by God’s grace, I was able to finish that pesky school project well before midnight.  But that didn’t matter so much anymore—what mattered was that my grateful heart was once again filled with blessings for my Guide.

Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.


(For more of the story behind the composition of “Precious Hand, Lead Me Home,” check out the Psalter Hymnal Handbook’s commentary at


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