Lutherans have a wonderful musical heritage! Lutheran hymnody is rich both musically and lyrically. Good Lutheran hymns are thoroughly steeped in God’s Word. Even today’s Christian praise and worship music owes its development to Martin Luther and his compositions in that Luther wanted the common people to be able to know and understand God and the Scriptures through song, in a language and style that they could understand. Luther used music to help people understand the Gospel, to memorize Scripture, to understand the sacraments, the catechism and more.
What follows is a list of Luther’s Hymn titles and dates as presented in Luther and Congregational Song by Luther D. Reed, pages 6-9, published by the Hymn Society of America in 1947. The teaching points were added after studying the lyrics in each of the hymns as presented in The Hymns of Martin Luther by Peter Reske, published by Concordia Publishing House. Additional web links have been provided so that you may also have the opportunity to listen to Luther’s hymns as, tragically, many can longer be found in Lutheran hymnals. Recordings are in English when available. Several are in Latin or German. A few links are simply an accompaniment along with lyrics as presented in older hymnals. While many of the hymns serve multiple purposes in Christian worship and education and could be categorized in numerous ways, the primary category and teaching or worship themes are listed.
If you have additions to this list, or favorite versions of these hymns, I invite you to share them with us in the comments section. Together, we can keep the beauty of our Lutheran hymnody alive and well. You are also welcome to share this list, use it for congregational teaching, or personal listening enjoyment. If you do share, a link back to our blog is most appreciated.
Hymns Translated by Luther from Latin (music largely composed by Luther)
1) Now Praise We Christ, the Holy One
Christum wir sollen loben schon (1524)
Teaches about the birth of Christ.
2) Though Who Art Three in Unity
Der du bist drei in Einigkeit (1543)
Teaches about and praises the Holy Trinity.
3) All Praise to Jesus’ Hallowed Name
Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ (1524)
Teaches about the incarnation.
4) Lord God, Thy Praise We Sing
Herr Gott, dich loben wir (1529)
A versification of the Te Deum laudamus; Gives praise to God.
5) Christ, Who Freed Our Souls from Danger
Jesus Christus unser Heiland (1524)
A catechetical hymn for understanding Holy Communion
Inspired by John Huss’s Jesus Christus, nostra salus
6) Come God, Creator, Holy Ghost
Komm Gott Schopfer, heiliger Geist (1524)
Teaches the importance of Holy Communion, the fact that salvation is not by works but by the cross of Christ alone, and gift of grace and peace of Christ to all who believe and confess.
7) Come Holy Spirit, God and Lord
Komm Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (1524)
A hymn to the Holy Spirit meant to encourage men in their struggles in this daily life; a prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide men’s hearts in time of strife.
8) Though in the Midst of Life We Be
Mitten wir im Leben sind (1524)
A hymn of triumph over the grave.
9) Saviour of the Heathen, Known
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (1524)
Lyrics ascribed to Ambrose.
Advent Hymn, Trinitarian praise.
10) In These Our Days so Perilous
Verleih uns Frieden gnadiglich (1529)
A prayer of peace during turbulent times.
11) Why, Herod, Unrelenting Foe
Was furcht’st du, Feind Herodes sehr (1541)
Teaches the meaning of Epiphany.
12) We All Believe in One True God
Wir glauben all’ an Einen Gott (1524)
A catechetical hymn that helps one to memorize the Nicene Creed.
Hymns Reworked from German Spiritual Folksongs
13) Christ was Laid in Death’s Strong Bands
Christ lag in Todesbanden (1524)
A Resurrection Hymn
14) God the Father, With Us Stay
Gott der Vater whon uns bei (1524)
A litany hymn on the Holy Trinity.
15) May God be Praised Henceforth and Blest Forever
Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet (1524)
16) Now Pray We All to God, the Comforter
Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist (1524)
A hymn about Pentecost and the Lord’s mercy. Luther desired to have it sung after communion.
Hymns Based on the Psalms
17) Look Down, O Lord, from Heaven Behold
Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein (pre-1524)
Based on Psalm 12 and speaks to the Church’s conflicts, needs, strengths, true faith.
18) Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee
Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir (1524)
Based on Psalm 130. A catechetical hymn on confession, repentance, and faith.
19) A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott (1528?)
Based on Psalm 46. Teaches God’s power, spiritual warfare, Christology, salvation.
20) The Mouth of Fools doth God Confess
Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl (1524)
Based on Psalm 14. Teaches the importance of submitting to the authority of Scripture.
21) May God unto Us Gracious Be
Es wollt uns Gott genadig sein (1524)
Based on Psalm 67. Praises to the Triune God, prayer for grace, missionary theme.
22) Had God Not Come, May Israel Say
War Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit (1524)
Based on Psalm 124. Teaches the importance of trusting in the Lord in times of strife.
23) Happy the Man who Feareth God
Wohl dem der in Gottes Furcht steht (1524)
Based on Psalm 128. Teaches the importance of family and God’s work through the family.
Hymns Based on Scripture Passages
24) To Jordan Came our Lord the Christ
Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (1541)
A catechetical about the meaning of baptism.
25) That Man a Godly Life Might Live
Dies sind die heiligen zehn Gebot (1524
A catechetical hymn on the Ten Commandments (see also hymn #27 below).
26) These Things the Seer Isaiah Did Befall
Jesaja dem Propheten das geschah (1526)
Teaches the Sanctus.
27) Wilt Thou, O Man, Live Happily
Mesch willt du leben seliflich (1524)
A catechetical hymn on the Ten Commandments meant as a companion to hymn #25 above.
28) In Peace and Joy I Now Depart
Mit Fried’ und Freud’ ich fahr’ dahin (1524)
Presents “Simeon’s Song” (Luke 2:29-32).
29) Dear is to Me the Holy Maid
Sie ist mir lieb, die werthe Magd (1535)
Teaches what the Christian Church is meant to truly be.
30) Our Father, Thou in Heaven Above
Vater unser im Himmerlreich (1539)
A catechetical hymn of the Lord’s prayer in paraphrase (the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer)
31) Good News from Heaven the Angels Bring
Vom Himmel hoch da kam ich her (1535)
Teaches the Christmas story according to Luke.
Entirely Original Hymns
32) By help of God I Fain Would Tell
Ein neus Lied wir heben an (1524)
Luther’s first published hymn. Written in honor the memory of two Augustinians who were martyred because of their adherence to Luther’s teachings. It was designed to make sure the news traveled throughout the land.
33) Lord, Keep us Steadfast in Thy Word
Erhalt uns Herr bei deinem Wort (1541?)
Written “to sing against the two archenemies of Christ and His Holy Church, the Pope and the Turks”.
34) Jesus Christ, Who Came to Save
Jesus Christus unser Heiland, der den Tod uberwand (1524)
A Resurrection Hymn with Kyrie.
35) Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein (1523)
Teaches the blessings one receives through faith in Jesus Christ; justification by faith, not works.
36) To Shepherds as They Watched by Night
Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar (1543)
A Christmas hymn, intended to be sung to the tune Vom Himmel hoch.