“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” has three familiar verses. Here’s a video of the Crist Family, several years ago, singing these three verses:
The lyrics were written by Edward Hooper, who ministered to sailors at Church of the Sea and Land in New York City in the later 1800s. His original 1871 manuscript of this song actually included six verses. Verse 1 is the same; the verses we know as 2 and 3 were originally 5 and 6. Here are the original verses 2, 3, and 4:
2. While th’ Apostles’ fragile bark
Struggled with the billows dark,
On the stormy Galilee,
Thou didst walk upon the sea;
And when they beheld Thy form,
Safe they glided through the storm.
3. Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
4. When the darkling heavens frown,
And the wrathful winds come down,
And the fierce waves, tossed on high,
Lash themselves against the sky,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life’s tempestuous sea.
Often, we will find, when some verses of a hymn survive and others get forgotten, the best verses survive. It’s not too hard to see why the original 1, 5, and 6 made it, and the original verse 3 did not. (Not too many people today could define or pronounce “halcyon” without reference to a dictionary!)
But the forgotten verse 2 is quite a gem. Here’s why: Every era has its cool songs, its songs that reference current technology and trends. “Turn Your Radio On,” “Life is Like a Mountain Railway,” and “I’ll Fly Away” are three of Southern Gospel’s enduring examples. (For a less enduring example, try the Weatherfords’ 1950 song “The Atom Bomb”: “Everybody knows about the atom bomb / Nobody knows the day my Lord will come / He’s going to hit, boom, like, boom, the atom bomb / When He comes, Lord, when He comes”!)
“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” is in a similar vein—similar, I should hasten to add, to the transportation-based “Turn Your Radio On” and “Life is Like a Mountain Railway” (not, perhaps thankfully, to “The Atom Bomb”!) But the forgotten verse 2 does is give the song solid roots in history. With the forgotten verse 2, we’re not just talking about Jesus being by our side today. We’re looking back in history to Jesus guiding His disciples through the tempestuous sea, and that gives us a solid context and foundation for our prayer that He will guide us today.