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Hymn History: “More Love to Thee”

2 min

The small family stood tearfully beside the little grave. Pastor George Prentiss and his wife, Elizabeth, were grief-stricken. They had just buried one of their young children. Mrs. Prentiss’s heart was especially overwhelmed with sorrow and pain.

A short time later, tragedy struck again when the youngest Prentiss child also died. Devastated, Mrs. Prentiss wrote in her diary, “Empty hands; a worn-out, exhausted body; and unutterable longings to flee from a world that has so many sharp experiences.” Despite her sorrow, Mrs. Prentiss continued to trust God instead of becoming bitter. Even in poor health, she faithfully honored God by lovingly serving her husband and young family.

At one point, Mrs. Prentiss studied the story of Jacob in the Old Testament and how God met him in a special way. Earnestly, she asked God to grant her a similar experience. Later, reflecting upon the hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” she was inspired to write her own poem about her heart’s desire.

More love to Thee, O Christ,
More love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make
On bended knee;
This is my earnest plea: More love,
O Christ, to Thee . . . 

The words flowed forth! However, near the end,
the words stopped. She set the poem aside, and it was forgotten. 

Over the years, God blessed the Prentiss family with more children. One day, years after the passing of their two small children, Mrs. Prentiss was rummaging through some old papers. In the midst of them she came across her unfinished poem. When she showed it to her husband, he saw its potential and urged her to finish it.

When the poem was completed, Pastor Prentiss printed a few copies. One found its way to William Howard Doane. Mr. Doane had composed more than 2,000 hymn tunes, including the music for “Rescue the Perishing,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” and “To God Be the Glory.” Inspired by the simple, moving poem, Mr. Doane composed music for it and published it. Since then, the hymn “More Love to Thee” has touched many lives and has been translated into numerous languages, including Arabic and Chinese. 

Mrs. Prentiss wrote: “To love Christ more is the deepest need, the constant cry of my soul . . . 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!” Love is “giving to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward.” Mrs. Prentiss demonstrated this character quality by loving Christ and serving her family, regardless of her heartaches or ill health. May our love for Christ guide us in serving others, wholly for His praise!

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