His Eye is on the Sparrow

Hymn Lyrics by Civilla D. Martin 1905, Music by Charles H. Gabriel
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Hymn Lyrics

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
And long for Heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Refrain: I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled,
His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness,
I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth,
But one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted,
Whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing,
When hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him,
From care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

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Years since this tune first existed

A hymn for the discouraged

This hymn was a bit intimidating to try. I will never forget listening to the version we heard in the movie Sister Act 2 – sung by Tanya Blount and Lauryn Hill. To this day, it gives me goosebumps! However, this song is very special to me, because one of the meanings of my name, Zippora (yes, I spell it without ah ‘h’!) means bird or sparrow. The song talks about how God Himself is our constant friend, and that He cares for us, that He has His eye on us at all times, and that we need not be alone or afraid.
Civilla Martin describes the context out of which the hymn was born: “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheelchair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s response was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.
Ethel Waters is also closely associated with this song, as she used to sing this hymn at many Billy Graham Crusades, in fact she loved this song so much, she used the name as the title for her autobiography. Ethel Waters brings memories of home for me, as my parents used to have these old vinyl records of Ethel, which we used to hear now and then very early on in life. In fact, by listening to her singing, it taught me later on in life that women don’t have to sing high! I used to find it ridiculous how in churches and other places, we were made to sing in the scale that the song was composed in (mostly in men’s ranges or in ranges of women with high voices) even when it didn’t suit our voices (By us, I mean low-range singing women!). I’m grateful to a God who cares about every little detail, and makes each and every one of us unique. He cares for you! 🙂

On the Author / Composer