top of page

HYMN 217 Our Father Who Art in Heaven

German: Vater Unser im Himmelreich Matthew 6:9-15
Text: Martin Luther (1483-1546) Tune: Folk tune arr. Martin Luther 1. Our Father, Thou in Heav’n above,
Who biddest us to dwell in love,
As brethren of one family,
To cry in every need to Thee,
Teach us no thoughtless words to say,
But from our inmost heart to pray. 2. Thy name be hallowed. Help us, Lord,
In purity to keep Thy Word,
That to the glory of Thy name
We walk before Thee free from blame.
Let no false doctrine us pervert;
All poor, deluded souls convert. 3. Thy kingdom come. Thine let it be
In time and in eternity.
Let Thy good Spirit e’er be nigh
Our hearts with graces to supply.
Break Satan’s power, defeat his rage;
Preserve Thy Church from age to age. 4. Thy gracious will on earth be done
As ’tis in Heaven before Thy throne;
Obedience in our weal and woe
And patience in all grief bestow.
Curb flesh and blood and every ill
That sets itself against Thy will. 5. Give us this day our daily bread
And let us all be clothed and fed.
From war and strife be our defense,
From famine and from pestilence,
That we may live in godly peace,
Free from all care and avarice. 6. Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore
Remove from us their burden sore,
As we their trespasses forgive
Who by offenses us do grieve.
Thus let us dwell in charity
And serve our brother willingly. 7. Into temptations lead us not,
When evil foes against us plot
And vex our souls on every hand,
Oh, give us strength that we may stand
Firm in the faith, a well-armed host,
Through comfort of the Holy Ghost! 8. From evil, Lord, deliver us;
The times and days are perilous.
Redeem us from eternal death,
And when we yield our dying breath,
Console us, grant us calm release,
And take our souls to Thee in peace. 9. Amen, that is, So shall it be.
Confirm our faith and hope in Thee
That we may doubt not, but believe
What here we ask we shall receive.
Thus in Thy name and at Thy Word
We say: Amen. Oh, hear us, Lord!
Tr. composite MEDITATION Catechism time again! We have looked at the first two parts of the Singing Catechism, the Ten Commandments (Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot HYMN 186) and the Creed, (Wir Glauben Alle HYMN195). Now the third part: the Lord's Prayer. Luther said the Ten Commandments teach us how to live, the Creed, what we believe, and the Lord's Prayer, how to pray. It is the classic Christian prayer which our Lord taught us. The tune for this hymn (Vater Unser) is probably the most well known of the Singing Catechism tunes by Luther. Lutheran hymn text writers would suggest it for their texts rather frequently. In fact I learned the tune first set to Thomas Kingo’s "How Fair the Church of Christ Doth Stand" (Hvor deilig skal Guds kirke staa). F. Melius Christiansen wrote an anthem on it that I long to hear now and then. This was one of Luther’s later hymns. It did not appear until 1539. It is much longer than any of the others so writers like Martin Franzmann have tried to shorten it (LBW 442). If you look closely at the stanzas you will see that each stanza is much like the answers to the questions in the Catechism for each petition. When Luther published it, Lucas Cranach did etchings for each part of the entire catechism from the beginning to the end. They illustrate the answers with scenes from the Bible. A long song was no problem back before the electronic media came along and gave us a radio disc jockey's three minute limit to songs, even in church. It was common in Luther's time for there to be services in church every day during Lent where Luther would preach on the Catechism. These hymns would be sung during these services in church. He preached many a sermon on the Catechism, spicy with his rich rhetoric and clear explanations of the faith. During Luther’s 500th birthday in 1983 I planned a service in which we sang the catechism as Luther wrote it. Cranach's etchings were shown during that time. During this hymn, the sober professor next to me began singing, to the tune, "This is a very long long song!" We laughed. I would not suggest that we have to sing Luther's hymn. He would probably have been among the first to applaud some of the hundreds of singing catechisms that have been written over time. The Protestant principle is clear: the language and music have to be in the vernacular. That means for us, in English and in contemporary music. But it is not a bad idea, every once in a while, for Luther’s admirers to gather to sing the Catechism hymns as they were sung in Wittenberg nearly 500 years ago. Even without singing it, we can read it and be edified. Remember the Amen and how Luther ends the song: "Amen, that is, So shall it be./Confirm our faith and hope in Thee/That we may doubt not, but believe/What here we ask we shall receive./Thus in Thy name and at Thy Word/We say: Amen. Oh, hear us, Lord! Amen!" Amen!

HYMN INFO Luther was the editor of this tune. They are not quite sure where he found it, but it has folk qualities. It very likely was a broadsheet that people could buy from a vender and put it on the wall in their kitchens. Its first appearance in a book was in Valentin Schumann’s 1539 Gesangbuch. Bach used the melody in several of his cantatas and wrote other works featuring the tune. For the edification of all, I will include links not only to Luther’s tune and setting, but also others that are more familiar and beloved, like the Malotte Lord’s Prayer. And several more. The Lord’s Prayer has been chanted in the Dano-Norwegian liturgy since Kingo and the very old still remember that. Here are too many, but listen to what you want to. LINKS
Quire Cleveland Marilyn Horne/ The Malotte version/something else! Solo Detlef Korsen singing in church the whole chorale Organ BWV 683 Fader vor/Danish Lord’s Prayer/ Duke Ellington Sacred Concert German contemporary Hanne Haller/millions of viewers Taiz é version G5MeineKirche/contemporary

HYMN 217 Our Father Who Art in Heaven
bottom of page