Children of the Heavenly Father

Full Text

1 Children of the heavenly Father
safely in his bosom gather;
nestling bird nor star in heaven
such a refuge e’er was given.

2 God his own shall tend and nourish;
in his holy courts they flourish.
From all evil powers he spares them;
in his mighty arms he bears them.

3 Neither life nor death shall ever
from the Lord his children sever;
for to them his grace revealing,
he turns sorrow into healing.

4 God has given, he has taken,
but his children ne’er forsaken;
his the loving purpose solely
to preserve them pure and holy.

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This familiar and well-loved hymn has several important truths embedded in it. First, God’s children are created by God and receive their life from him. This is affirmed in Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 11: “Life is God’s gift to us…”


These children, as well as adults, belong to God, a truth affirmed in the sacrament of infant baptism and professed in confessional statements such as Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 27, Question and Answer 74: “Infants as well as adults are included in God’s covenant…” This comforting truth is also professed in Our Song of Hope, stanza 20: “Christ’s hand reaches out…to infants who live in the atmosphere of faith.”


Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 28 says that God will always protect and preserve his children: “All creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.”


Children of the Heavenly Father

Call to Worship

A call to worship especially mindful of children
God makes the sun rise and set.
He is faithful from generation to generation.
God makes summer and winter come and go.
He is faithful from generation to generation.
God helps plants grow and flowers bloom.
He is faithful from generation to generation.
God gives us food to eat, places to live, and people to love us.
He is faithful from generation to generation.
God is always with us.
He is faithful from generation to generation.
God keeps his promises to us.
He is faithful from generation to generation.
Let us praise our faithful God.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


The Lord works vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting
to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
—Psalm 103:6-18, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

The following is a guide for extemporaneous prayers. The pattern provides a suggested text
for the opening and closing of each part of the prayer and calls for extemporaneous prayers of
thanksgiving, petition, and intercession.
Creator God,
we praise you for creating a world filled with beauty and variety.
We thank you for revealing yourself
through the beauty of a flower and the power of a storm.
Today we particularly marvel at the beauty of . . .
for your work in the world, especially . . .
for evidence of your presence in the church and local community . . .
for creating humanity in your image and
for our task as caretakers of this world and all it contains.
Yet we come before you, acknowledging that
we have failed in our task as stewards of this world.
Along with creation we look forward to the new creation.
As we wait, we pray that we may be greater imagebearers of you,
as evidenced in
our care of creation, especially . . .
our work toward peace and reconciliation in our world,
especially . . .
our government and all who lead . . .
the church worldwide and particularly the work of . . .
the ministry of this church as we . . .
in our love and care for persons who have particular needs,
especially . . .
We offer these prayers in the name of our creating God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
who with all creation we worship now and through eternity. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

A Petitionary Prayer
Compassionate God, we entrust our children and grandchildren to your tender care. They are your children. Protect them, enfold them, guide them in the way everlasting. Let goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives. Then, for Jesus’ sake, receive them into your everlasting arms. Amen. 
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

For the earth and the gift of good land,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For the anticipation of a new growing season,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For those who labor on the farm and in the marketplace,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For the abundance of food and the opportunities to share,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For the delight of eating and the challenge of self-denial,
we give thanks, O Lord.
O God, our help, we lift up our hearts for the needs of your people:
to those who continue to be burdened with financial problems,
give strength, O Lord.
To those who have lost their land or livelihood,
who have experienced the pain of displacement,
give hope, O Lord.
To those serving people who are troubled and discouraged,
give wisdom, O Lord.
To those who are strong and have prospered,
give humility, O Lord.
To those seeking to be open to your gifts and calling,
give us grace to be patient in suffering
and sensitive to the pain of others.
Help us to be faithful to that which you have committed to us
so that we may realize your kingdom where we are.
Through Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray,
saying, “Our Father . . .”
[Reformed Worship 14:39
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Children of the Heavenly Father

Tune Information

D Major


Song Combination

Consider using Lift Up Your Hearts #23 “Children of the Heavenly Father,” #24 “Affirmation: God as Creator and Provider” and #25 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” together in a medley.
  • Begin by singing #23 “Children of the Heavenly Father”—use an appropriate accompaniment for the words of this delicate prayer with instruments such as piano, guitar, flute, soft organ, etc.
  • The piano can continue to play softly in the background as #24 “Affirmation: God as Creator and Provider” is read, transition to the key of E♭ and play #25 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” softly as the Affirmation is finished. Lead into the singing of #25 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” with a stronger accompaniment (louder organ, stronger piano, or whatever is available and being used). 
— Diane Dykgraaf

Children of the Heavenly Father

Hymn Story/Background

First associated with this text in Fredrik Engelke's Loftangeroch andeliga wisor (1873), TRYGGARE KAN INGEN VARA is probably a Swedish folk song, but versions of the tune were also sung in Germany in the early 1800s.
This charmingly simple tune needs light accompaniment, perhaps just recorders and guitar. It is well suited to part singing and could be sung unaccompanied.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

The author of this text, Caroline W. Sandell Berg (b. Froderyd, Sweden, 1832; d. Stockholm, Sweden, 1903), is better known as Lina Sandell, the "Fanny Crosby of Sweden."
"Lina" Wilhelmina Sandell Berg was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor to whom she was very close; she wrote hymns partly to cope with the fact that she witnessed his tragic death by drowning. Many of her 650 hymns were used in the revival services of Carl O. Rosenius, and a number of them gained popularity particularly because of the musical settings written by gospel singer Oskar Ahnfelt. Jenny Lind, the famous Swedish soprano, underwrote the cost of publishing a collection of Ahnfelt's music, Andeliga Sänger (1850), which consisted mainly of Berg's hymn texts.
Ernst W. Olson (b. Skane, Sweden, 1870; d. Chicago, IL, 1958) prepared the English translation for the 1925 Hymnal of the Lutheran Augustana Synod. As editor, writer, poet, and translator, Olson made a valuable contribution to Swedish-American culture and to church music. His family immigrated to Nebraska when he was five years old, but he spent much of his life in the Chicago area. Educated at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, he was editor of several Swedish-American newspapers and spent most of his professional career as an editor for the Augustana Book Concern (1911-1949). Olson wrote A History of the Swedes in Illinois (1908). He also contributed four original hymns and twenty-eight translations to The Hymnal (1925) of the Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod and served on the committee that produced the Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal (1958).
— Bert Polman
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