Story Behind the Hymn
Inspired by a simple prayer of an elderly woman at a prayer meeting, this hymn is the result of the cry of Adelaide A. Pollard’s heart in the midst of a “crisis of soul.” Pollard, a devout woman, had a life-long dream to become a missionary to Africa. However, in 1902, her hopes were dashed when she was unable to raise the funds necessary for the journey. In deep distress 40-year-old Pollard attended a prayer meeting where she heard an elderly woman petition God, “Lord, it doesn’t matter what you do with us—just have your own way with our lives.” Inspired by these words, she returned home that evening to ponder the passage in Jeremiah 18:
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter, so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make (Jer. 18:3-4).
Prayerfully allowing these words to sink into the depth of her soul, she penned all four stanzas of this hymn that night.
When her plan to be a missionary to Africa failed, Pollard turned to teaching and writing. During her years as an educator, she developed a reputation as an outstanding Bible study teacher. In time, she became an evangelist and itinerant Bible study teacher. Those who knew her well, considered her to be somehow remote from human comprehension, one to whom God had revealed a supernatural way of life.
Just before World War I broke out, she did sail to Africa. Unfortunately, she met with disappointment once again when the war forced her to retreat to Scotland. After the war, she returned to the United States where she resumed her preaching ministry in New England.
Allowing God to be the potter in her life of clay redirected the course of her life from missionary to teacher, preacher, and writer of prose and poetry. Had she not allowed God to have His way with her, we would not have this hymn today, challenging us to yield our lives to the Master Potter.