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Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart

June 11, 2009

This is such a fantastic hymn that I can’t believe I’ve only known about it for the past 8 years of my life.  I had never heard it until I was in college and one of my good friends introduced me to this hymn.  I was immediately taken by the text and continue to be to this day.  This is definitely a hymn I want at my funeral.  The original German text is by Martin Schalling (1532-1608), and our English translation is by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878).  The tune, HERZLICH LIEB, is from a 1577 hymnal in Strassburg, Germany.  You can hear a recording of the third stanza by the Kantorei of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN by going here.   You can also hear a review of the hymn from the previous incarnation of Issues Etc by Dr. Arthur Just by going here.

As I said previously, the text of this hymn is unbelieveably good.  While the title may make it sound as if the hymn is all about the speaker, as you read the text it becomes clear that he is totally dependent on Christ for his life, both here and eternally.  As it says, Earth has no pleasure I would share Yea, heav’n itself were void and bare If Thou, Lord, wert not near me. Heaven  is not great because it is such a great place.  Heaven is great because God is present there visibily, and we are in full communion with the Holy Trinity.  Indeed, the same is true of our churches.  We go to church because Christ says that He is there, in His Word and Sacraments.  Without the Word and Sacraments a church is a vacuous place full of empty platitudes, no matter how good it makes you feel.  In fact, a church is not “Christian” if the Word and Sacraments are absent, because that is how Christ has said He will come among us.  No Christ = Not Christian.

The second stanza begins by acknowledging that we are given all things by and through Christ, and then pleads with God to help us serve our neighbor in our vocations.  Then he pleads with Christ that he may not be misled by false doctine, which ultimately comes from Satan.  It is interesting that by combining service in vocation with pure doctrine, the author’s words fly in the face of those who say that mission work and doctrine are in opposition.  As Christians, we do our best “mission work” within the confines of our vocations, be they husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, boss, employee, and so on.  This hymn-writer does not separate this out from the pure doctrine that we need, for without pure doctrine, we will not do any good and can in fact point people down the road that leads to destruction.  Instead, the author is dependent only on Christ for everything, from life to death.  And it is in death that we receive the greatest blessing: eternal life.

The third stanza is my absolute favorite and gives such a glorious picture of a Christian’s death, along with the resurrection on the final day.  Lord, let at last Thine angels come, To Abr’ham’s bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing.  And in its narrow chamber keep My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing.  And then from death awaken me, That these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace.  Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, And I will praise Thee without end. When I play this hymn, I start this stanza quietly and calmly as we sing through My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reapperaing. The next part, And then from death awaken me, always gives me the thought of the trumpet of God that will wake the dead.  That will be such a glorious moment and I try to play it as such, adding all the forces the organ can bring to bear as we sing about our resurrection and eternity in heaven in the presence of God.  Indeed, we will praise God without end in eternity.  What a glorious thought!

Hymn: Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart – Lutheran Service Book 708

1 Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;
I pray Thee, ne’er from me depart,
With tender mercy cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share.
Yea, heav’n itself were void and bare
If Thou, Lord, wert not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break,
My trust in Thee can nothing shake.
Thou art the portion I have sought;
Thy precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Lord, my God and Lord,
Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.


2 Yea, Lord, ’twas Thy rich bounty gave
My body, soul, and all I have
In this poor life of labor.
Lord, grant that I in ev’ry place
May glorify Thy lavish grace
And help and serve my neighbor.
Let no false doctrine me beguile;
Let Satan not my soul defile.
Give strength and patience unto me
To bear my cross and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus Christ, my God and Lord, my God and Lord,
In death Thy comfort still afford.


3 Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abr’ham’s bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.


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From → Hymns

8 Comments
  1. Randall R Rice permalink

    I wish I had known this hymn for 8 years, it just came to mt attention when I started learning the Chorale prelude based on HERZLICH LIEB by Karg-Elert, an absolute sweet piece. Then I went to studying the hymn text and was blown away by it. I am going to use this as a post-communion hymn for our Palm Sunday celebrations this year, and hopefully the congregation will embrace it as well.

    One note, when I tried the link to hear it, it did not work. I’m still looking for a recording of this hymn. Thank you for your analysis of the hymn,

    Randall R Rice, Dir of Music & Liturgy
    Resurrection Lutheran Church
    Boston, MA 02119

    • Randall,
      Thank you for the comment! It is one of my favorite hymns and is still relatively unknown in many Lutheran congregations, not to mention in the larger Christian church. I’m glad you discovered it.

      Thank you also for letting me know about the link. I will see if I can find another one and put it up.

  2. Bill Lonn permalink

    Why is the first stanza phrase “Thy precious blood my soul has bought” so wonderful? I would much prefer, ” My soul thy precious blood has bought”. Isn’t pure doctrine more important than poetic phrases? I’m amazed this part of the hymn text has stood so long apparently without question.

  3. Bill, I have looked carefully and I must respectfully disagree. Yes, the phrase in the hymn is a more archaic sentence, but they mean the same thing. The subject in both cases is “Thy precious blood” which “has bought” the object “my soul.” Yes, that is used to fit the rhyme scheme, but the focus is also primarily on Christ’s blood, as opposed to my soul. Christ is the focus of the Christian faith, not me, so I think the usage is just fine.

    If you would be able to show me how the current usage promotes false doctrine I would appreciate it, because I just cannot see it. Thanks for the comment!

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