This praise is one of my favourites. Most of us know it by its chorus: “How great Thou art”. In fact the first line is: “O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder”. It is a truly international praise!
Carl Boberg, a 26 years old Swedish minister, wrote a poem in 1885, which he called “O Store Gud” – “O Mighty God”. His poem was published and ‘forgotten’. Several years later though he was surprised hearing it being sung to an old Swedish melody.
Somehow the hymn travelled to Ukraine in the early 20th century. There a British missionary, Stuart Hine was so moved by it that he expanded the words and made his own arrangement of the Swedish melody. He later said that the first three verses were inspired by and in the rugged Carpathian Mountains. The first verse was composed when he was caught in a thunderstorm in a Carpathian village, the second as he heard the birds singing near the Romanian border, and the third as he witnessed many villagers in the Carpathians coming to faith just by hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ read to them. The fourth verse was added much later, after WW2. Hine was concerned for the exiled Polish community in the UK, who were keen to return home. They partly inspired verse four.
Some time later, Dr. J. Edwin Orr heard “How Great Thou Art” being sung by Naga Tribespeople in Assam, India, and decided to take it home to use it in their own meetings in the USA. There it was noticed by a music publisher who got it copyrighted by Stuart Hine. It was published and recorded.
During the 1954 Billy Graham Crusade in the UK the song was given to George Beverly Shea, a soloist of the Crusade. He sang it to himself and shared it with others. But the song was introduced only later. In the New York Crusade in 1957 he sang it 99 times with the choir joining in with the tremendous chorus:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
What an astonishing international praise, by the Spirit of God, for the people of God, to the glory of God! How great thou art!