“I Want Jesus to Walk With Me”
Though this spiritual focuses on a plea for Jesus to walk alongside us, there is an element of assurance that His answer is “yes.” As the psalmist writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4, ESV). As this song is sung, think about what it means to constantly have the presence of God, even when no human companionship is available.
This text is an anonymous spiritual, most likely of the African-American tradition. One author categorizes the song as a “communal lament” (Paul Westermeyer, Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 115-116). Another writes, “This text is categorized as a 'sorrow song,' meant for individual rather than group singing” (Robert L. Anderson, The New Century Hymnal Companion, p. 456). What both concur on is that this is not a happy song. The three stanzas in common use are “I want Jesus to walk with me,” “In my trials,” and “When I'm in trouble” (or sometimes “In my sorrows”). All of them focus on a plea for the companionship of Jesus throughout life, using the metaphor of a journey on foot.
This spiritual's tune is also anonymous. It is named after Sojourner Truth, the freed slave woman who publicly spoke for freedom and equality for all. This tune is not hard to sing, though the changes between major thirds and minor thirds may present a slight difficulty. The opening motif is repeated at the beginning of the second and third phrases, and the fourth phrase repeats the ending motif of the third phrase. Sing at a moderately slow tempo.