In 1984 Martin "Marty" Nystrom was a school teacher in Seattle. Since he had the summer off he traveled to Dallas, Texas to spend time at the Christ For the Nations Institute. Marty had an ulterior motive, as he was interested in a girl there. However the prospective relationship didn't work out leaving him feeling heartbroken and regretful over his choice of spending the summer in Texas.
Marty had a roommate at CFNI who was a very enthusiastic Christian. His friend challenged him to go on a fast, to consume nothing but water as a way to draw himself back toward God.
Marty recalled to the St. Augustine Record's Lindsay Terry what happened next: "I took up the challenge, and on the 19th day of the fast I found myself sitting at a piano trying to write a song. I was simply playing chord progressions when I noticed a Bible on the music stand of the piano. It was open to Psalm 42. My eyes fell on the first verse of that chapter... 'As the hart (deer) panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.' After reading the verse I began to sing its message, right off the page. I wrote the first verse and the chorus of a song, pretty much straight through. The whole of the adventure was completed in a matter of minutes. I then repeated the song I had just written. I wanted to seal it in my mind."
"I had no intention of showing the song to anyone," Marty continued. "It was to be for my own devotional time with the Lord. However, before leaving the school to go back to Seattle, I did share it with one person, Dave Butterbaugh. He introduced it to the students of the school and it became a favorite."
The words and the melody that Marty composed resonated with many. Since the introduction of the song, it has been translated into several languages and is sung in churches worldwide.