We enjoy many wonderful blessings when we gather with the church for worship. Together, we lift up our prayers, sing God’s praise, and hear God’s Word. Yet we can too easily miss these blessings, even when we are present with God’s people. We can say and sing words with our lips—and fail to draw near to Christ in our hearts. We can hear the Word of God read and preached—and thoughtlessly assume we know what is being said. We can take worship for granted and fail to appreciate its wonder and delight.
The hymn, O How Blest the Hour by the Lutheran hymn-writer Carl Johann Philipp Spitta (1801–1859), is a prayer that we not miss the wonder and delight of worship. It was first published in Leipzig in 1843 under the Scripture text John 6:68 with the title “Thou hast the words of Eternal Life” (John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, 2:1078). The opening line in German is “O wie freun wir uns der Stunde” (O how we joyfully look forward to the hour). Richard Massie included a translation of the hymn in English in the second volume of his Lyra Domestica (1864).
The hymn anticipates the joy of drawing near to Christ and being together with the church in worship. It expresses our desire to hear God’s Word and asks that God be at work as we listen—that we would “not hear in vain” but He would impress its truths to our hearts and minds and help us walk in obedience.
Below are the words and link to the hymn set to a tune composed by Tom Wells. My thanks again to Tom for his permission to share and make his tunes available.
O How Blest the Hour
“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’” (John 6:68).
O How blest the hour, Lord Jesus,
When we can to Thee draw near,
Promises so sweet and precious
From Thy gracious lips to hear!
Be with us this day to bless us,
That we may not hear in vain;
While Thy saving truths impress us,
Which the words of life contain.
Open Thou our minds and lead us
Safely on our heav’nward way;
While the lamp of Truth precedes us,
That we might not go astray.
Lord, endue Thy Word from heaven
With such light and love and pow’r,
That in us its silent leaven
May work on from hour to hour.
Give us grace to bear our witness
To the truths we have embraced;
And let others both their sweetness
And their quick’ning virtue taste.
“O How Blest the Hour”
Words by Carl Johann Philipp Spitta (1801–1859)
Translated by Richard Massie, 1800–1887
Music by Tom Wells, 2002
Words ©Public Domain
Music ©2002 Tom Wells (Used by Permission)
Download free sheet music (PDF), including guitar chord charts and an arrangement of the hymn tune HARRISON for classical guitar.