Henry Francis Lyte, the author of this hymn, didn’t have an easy life. His father abandoned the family while Henry was still a boy. Then Henry’s mother and brother died, leaving Henry an orphan at age nine. A Christian couple, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Burrows, learned of his circumstances, took him in, and provided for his education.
Lyte studied for the ministry, was ordained, and served several small churches—the last in Brixham on the English Channel—a pleasant fishing village where he served for 23 years. While at Brixham, he formed a Sunday school that enrolled 800 children.
While at Brixham, Lyte wrote a great many hymns based on the Psalms. “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven,” based on Psalm 103, is one of those. Queen Elizabeth had it sung as the processional for her coronation. Another of Lyte’s hymns, “Abide with me,” was the favorite hymn of King George V.
Lyte suffered ill health for most of his life, and died at age 54. He had never been anything but a village pastor, but he enriched the lives of all those in his community—and the 800 children in his Sunday school—and the sailors to whom he carried on a special ministry — and all of us who enjoy his hymns.
I suspect that no one would have been more surprised than Henry Lyte to learn that one of his hymns was the favorite of King George and another was sung at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. But that is often how God works—using people whom we might think to be ordinary to give us extraordinary blessings.
— Copyright 2007, Richard Niell Donovan