My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Full Text

1 My Shepherd will supply my need;
the LORD God is his name:
in pastures fresh he makes me feed,
beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back,
when I forsake his ways;
and leads me, for his mercy's sake,
in paths of truth and grace.

2 When I walk through the shades of death
your presence is my stay;
one word of your supporting breath
drives all my fears away.
Your hand, in sight of all my foes,
shall still my table spread;
my cup with blessings overflows,
your oil anoints my head.

3 The sure provisions of my God
attend me all my days;
O may your house be my abode,
and all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
while others go and come;
no more a stranger or a guest,
but like a child at home.

see more

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Psalm 23 has inspired numerous paraphrases and hymn texts, including this text by Isaac Watts. Watts included it in his large 1719 collection of psalm paraphrases, The Psalms of David Imitated.


Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song expresses trust in the faithfulness of God who will care for us as a shepherd faithfully cares for his sheep. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1 says, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact all things must work together for my salvation.”


Additionally, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 28 says that the providence of God leads me to trust him fully, being “patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.”


Belgic Confession, Article 13 is clear to testify that he “watches over us with fatherly care,” and “in this thought we rest, knowing that God holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us, without divine permission and will.”


My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Additional Prayers

Jesus, loving shepherd, we hear your voice,
and we know the price you paid because of your love for us.
Help us to move beyond hearing and knowing
to accepting the life you offer us and committing ourselves to serving others,
giving you all honor, glory, and praise. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Tune Information

C Major
Meter D


Musical Suggestion

Perhaps the most effective way to introduce this hymn is also the most authentic to the spirit and history of the music. Have a soloist—a person with a clear, pleasant, natural voice—sing the first stanza simply and directly, without accompaniment. On stanza 2, the choir may sing in unison, still unaccompanied. By stanza 3, the congregation will want to join in. For those of us who play and hear hymns on the organ week after week, unaccompanied unison hymn singing can be a powerfully moving experience.
When you do perform this hymn with accompaniment, though, the organist or pianist should take special care to play the spirit of the words. A clean legato is best here; try not to let the jagged bass line "bump." When the congregation is comfortable with the hymn, you may wish to try the alternate free harmonization that is included with this article. It is meant to be played on the final stanza.
There are many choral settings of "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need." Probably the best known is the highly recommended setting by the late Virgil Thomson (Belwin-Mills), available in several voicings (again, be sure to check the texts and adapt where necessary.)
Several attractive organ settings are also available. Gilbert Martin's prelude in Hammer's second Bristol Collection of 1975, and David Schack's setting in his Augsburg publication Preludes on Ten Hymntunes are listed in the Ringerwole bibliography. Besides these, Belwin-Mills publishes New Jersey composer Louie White's Reflections on Southern Hymntunes, which includes a lovely canonic arrangement, and Carl Schalk has a prelude on RESIGNATION in volume 36 of the Concordia Hymn Prelude Series. Enterprising organists will locate still more.
Many handbell arrangements also exist for choirs who wish to ring the hymn. Look for pieces by Dick Averre (Presser), Douglas Wagner (Sacred Music Press), David Schwoebel (Lorenz, with C instrument), and even an arrangement for handbell solo by Wall (published by Jeffers).
However you present this hymn, it is certain to become one of your congregation's most beloved favorites. Enjoy!
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 16)
— Alfred V. Fedak

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Hymn Story/Background

Psalm 23 has inspired numerous paraphrases and hymn texts, including this text by Isaac Watts. Watts included it in his large 1719 collection of psalm paraphrases, The Psalms of David Imitated.
RESIGNATION is another of the anonymous tunes from the shape-note hymnal tradition in the Southern United States; William Walker included it in his Southern Harmony (1835) set to Watts' text. That association of text and tune has been maintained in many hymnals and anthems, including a famous choral setting by Virgil Thompson.
Like so many American folk tunes, RESIGNATION is pentatonic.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Isaac Watts (b. Southampton, England, July 17, 1674; d. Bunfill Fields, England, November 25, 1748) was a precocious student and voracious reader. As a youth he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew. He declined an offer to study at Oxford and chose instead to attend an independent academy in Stoke Newington (1690-1694). From 1696 to 1701 Watts was tutor for the family of Sir John Hartopp, and in 1702 he became the pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London. However, ill health, which he had suffered for some years, took a serious turn in 1712. After that time he served the Mark Lane Chapel only on a part-time basis and moved in to the estate of Sir Thomas Abney to became the family chaplain, a position he held for the rest of his life. During the following thirty-six years Watts was a prolific author–writing books about theology, philosophy (including an influential textbook, Logic), and education, as well as conducting a voluminous correspondence.
Today, Watts is best remembered for his psalm paraphrases and hymns. Many of his contemporaries were exclusive psalm singers. After complaining about the poor quality of many of the psalm paraphrases, the teenager Watts was challenged by his father, "Give us something better!" So he began to write new psalm versifications in which he deliberately chose not to follow closely the King James text but instead to interpret the Old Testament psalms through contemporary British Christian and New Testament eyes.
The next step was to write hymns rather than Scripture paraphrases. What he called "hymns of human composure" established him as the creator of the modern English hymn; he is known as the "father of English hymnody." Altogether, Watts wrote more than six hundred psalm and hymn texts, which were published in his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), Divine Songs . . . for the Use of Children (1715), The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), and Sermons and Hymns (1721-1727). Most of Watts' texts use the traditional British ballad meters (Short Meter, Common Meter, and Long Meter) and state their theme in often memorable first lines. His work became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, including the United States, where, following the American Revolution, Watts' texts were edited by Timothy Dwight in 1801 to remove their British connotations. Several of his versifications and hymns are still found in most hymnals; especially loved are the paraphrase of Psalm 90, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," and the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

William Walker (b. Cross Keys, SC, 1809; d. Spartenburg, SC, 1875) was known as "Singin' Billy." A Southern Baptist singing school teacher, Walker composed his first hymn tune, SOLEMN CALL, at the age of eighteen. With his brother-in-law, Benjamin F. White, he compiled the famous hymnbook The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1835), which sold over six hundred thousand copies over the next thirty years. The first edition of Southern Harmony is considered to be primarily a borrowing from Ananias Davisson's Kentucky Harmony (1815), another four-shape-note tunebook. In his travels through Appalachia, Walker collected many folk tunes. His work represents one of the best collections of early American folk hymns, many of which were derived from traditional melodies of the British Isles.
Because White's work in compiling The Southern Harmony was uncredited by Walker in 1835, White and E.J. King published the equally important tunebook The Sacred Harp (1844), which led to rivalry between those who sang from the two books. In 1867 Walker expanded the four-shape notation in his book to seven shapes and published it as Christian Harmony. The Southern Harmony and The Sacred Harp are both still popular tunebooks today and are used in regular hymn-sings in various communities throughout the southeastern United States.
— Bert Polman

Dale Grotenhuis (b. Cedar Grove, WI, 1931; d. Jenison, MI, August 17, 2012), was a member of the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee, a professor of music and director of choral music at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, from 1960 until he retired in 1994 to concentrate on composition. Educated at Calvin College; Michigan State University, Lansing; and Ohio State University, Columbus; he combined teaching with composition throughout his career and is a widely published composer of choral music. He also directed the Dordt choir in a large number of recordings, including many psalm arrangements found in the 1959 edition of the Psalter Hymnal, 1987.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

Psalm 23 remains the most well-loved and often recited psalm, and Isaac Watt’s powerful paraphrase, coupled with the peaceful yet strong American folk tune, make this hymn a moving rendition of that psalm. Watts’ interpretation of the last line of psalm, "and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever," gives a new understanding of the original psalm: "No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home." Watts gives us a concrete image of dwelling – a child, knowing he or she is safe and secure, and in a place of love and comfort – to help us understand what it is we hope for. The same peace we find in the pasture and by the stream, we find in the house of the LORD, to which our Shepherd is leading us day by day.
— Laura de Jong

You can view this hymn by purchasing it in our Lift Up Your Hearts mobile app.

Download on the App Store
Get it on Google Play

Due to copyright restrictions, we cannot display this hymn on our website or provide printable copies of it.

Suggestions or corrections? Contact us