The hymn “Take my life and let it be” is a popular hymn use in consecration service among Christians all over the world. The hymn was written by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), an unusually gifted poetess, Christian, and devotional musician that also passionate about the hymn. “Take my life and let it be” is considered the most popular and the best of her hymns. In the text of the hymn, she committed all things that belong to her and life to God for His purpose. This is a call to all of us to consecrate all things in our lives to God.
In fact, in this hymn, Frances provided us with one of the classic hymns of Christian commitment known as the “consecration poet”. And the hymn is also called consecration hymn by Miss Havergal.
Writer of the Hymn
Frances Havergal, the hymn writer, was born on 14th December 1836, in Astley Worcestershire, the West Midlands of England, into the Family of William Henry Havergal (1793–1870) and Jane Havergal (1794 – 1848). Both William and Jane were very ardent to edify their children to long for the Saviour. She was the last born of six children and the fourth daughter of the family.
Miss Frances is known for writing religious tracts, hymn text, and melody, and works for children. Her Father, William Havergal, was a clergyman in an Anglican church and also a church musician. William Havergal himself is a noted poet and hymn writer who has authored about 100 hymns. He has a great solace in composing music for cathedral services and functions. And to his account was many hundreds of chants, for singing the Psalms, and lots of tunes for the hymn.
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Frances was an intelligent, cheerful, and charming child that abounds with fun. Her education started at home and then a private school in England, Worcester to be precise. She continued in Louisenschule, Dusseldorf, Germany (1852-53), and at Oberkassel. With God’s intelligence in her, Frances won some scholastic honours for herself. Specifically, proficiency in modern languages, not only in French and German but also in Greek and Hebrew.
She was able to read at the age of three and at four she can read and memorize the bible. She started reading and memorizing the Psalms, Book of Isaiah, minor books of the prophets, and the New Testament when she was four. Surprisingly, when she reached seven years of age, she started writing verses with significant fluency. Above all, she became a renowned hymn-writer when she was in her mid-thirty. In addition, she was a very skilled musically and known as a good singer and a brilliant pianist. Eventually, seventy-one (71) hymn lyrics were tagged to her credit. Frances wrote some of the tunes to her hymns while her father wrote the tune for the rest.
Story Behind the Hymn
Ridley (this is her middle name she loved so much) was a devoted Christian all her life and her greatest study was the Scripture. She took the reading of the Scripture in the morning and night as her daily business. This she did in order to reflect on day-to-day functional means she could be transformed by it “into the image-of-Christ”. Nevertheless, at age of 36, she encountered what can be called a conversion experience. This was through a book titled “All for Jesus” that she read and let her be conscious of the imperfection of her own devotion. As a result, she dedicated her life again to Christ.
Soon thereafter, she has five days’ stay with a group of ten people. The group comprised converted Christians that are not devoted and those that were not Christians. She witnessed and prayed for them with the prayer point: “Lord, give me all in this house”, that Holy spirit gave to her.
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This she did with all her heart and before she left their house, God has answered her prayer. Every member of the group had got a divine blessing from above. Thus, all of them have turned their ways to the Lord and became new in Christ. On the last day of her visit, day five, Frances was so excited to lay her head down to rest that she did not sleep. She used most of her time that night to praise the Lord and rebirth of her own consecration. During the night, Frances Havergal was inspired and wrote the text of the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be”.
This hymn was written at Astley House on the 4th of February 1874. It was originally in eleven stanzas text of two lines each and was published in the Songs of Grace and Glory (1872) by Charles B. Snepp. Later in the year 1878, she published it in Loyal Response, her book that’s also known as Daily melodies for the King’s minstrels. She later added the twelfth stanza of two lines texts to form a six stanzas hymn and that was first published in the Psalter Hymnal.
The Tune for the Hymn
The tune Miss Havergal love to sing this hymn “Take My Life And Let It Be” with is Patmos, the music wrote by his father. She always used “Patmos” as a tune for the hymn in any publication she had influence. With this in mind, her family also desires people to associate the tune, Patmos, with the hymn in any publication. On the contrary, this wish was not globally accepted by hymn book compilers. The common tune with the hymn in most of the hymn books is “Mozart”. In the same way, there is another hymnal tune used by people to sing this hymn. The tunes are Consecration or Hendon by Henri Abraham Cesar Malan (1787-1864) and St. Bee by John Bacchus Dykes (1862). In fact, St. Bee seems to be popular with the Hymn than other tunes.
The poor health did not allow Miss Havergal to live long. At age 42, she died of life-threatening illnesses called peritonitis in Wales. She was buried near her sister and father at the western corner of St Peter’s parish churchyard in Astley. As we can see, her entire life was symbolized by spiritual righteousness. She also lived an active and effective life until death took her away. She found comfort in encouraging others to depend and put their trust in Jesus. In fact, her hymn is a declaration of her heart’s desire to draw closer to God and serve Him more passionately.
Though Frances Havergal lived a short life, she was blessed to write many spiritual poems that have become well-loved hymns today. Surely, her ministry was blessed by the Lord that we are still singing many of her songs today. The text for the hymn “Take my life and let it be” is below.
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