405

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Full Text

1 Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:

2 Under the shadow of your throne
your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

3 Before the hills in order stood
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God,
to endless years the same.

4 A thousand ages in your sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

6 Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home!

see more

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Considered one of the finest paraphrases written by Isaac Watts, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" expresses a strong note of assurance, promise, and hope in the LORD as recorded in the first part of Psalm 90, even though the entire psalm has a recurring theme of lament. Watts wrote the paraphrase in nine stanzas around 1714 and first published the text in his Psalms of David (1719). The Psalter Hymnal includes the most well-known stanzas. The first line, originally "Our God, our help … ," was changed to "O God, our help… “by John Wesley in his Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1738). For further commentary on this psalm see PHH 90.

 

Psalter Hymnal Handbook

 

Extracted from the opening section of Psalm 90, Isaac Watts’ famous paraphrase expresses great assurance, promise, and hope in the Lord; it functions as a second national anthem in Britain.

 

Bert Polman

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

In the passage of time, the child of God lives with expectancy—for God to renew them and for God to lead them in obedience (Our Song of Hope, stanza 9).

 
Even though time passes and years end swiftly, God is eternally faithful. And so God’s children testify using the words of Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 1: “As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—which some seek to control, and others view with despair—we declare with joy and trust: Our world belongs to God!”

405

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Introductory/Framing Text

Extracted from the opening section of Psalm 90, Isaac Watts’ famous paraphrase expresses great assurance, promise, and hope in the Lord; it functions as a second national anthem in Britain. The long-lasting union of Watts’ text and William Croft’s majestic tune was first fashioned in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).
 
Considered one of the finest paraphrases written by Isaac Watts,"O God, Our Help in Ages Past" expresses a strong note of assurance, promise, and hope in the LORD as recorded in the first part of Psalm 90, even though the entire psalm has a recurring theme of lament. Watts wrote the paraphrase in nine stanzas around 1714 and first published the text in his Psalms of David (1719). The first line, originally "Our God, our help … ," was changed to "O God, our help…" by John Wesley in his Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1738).
 
Though no firm documentation exists, ST. ANNE was probably composed by William Croft, possibly when he was organist from 1700-1711 at St. Anne's Church in Soho, London, England. (According to tradition, St. Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary.) The tune was first published in A Supplement to the New Version (6th ed., 1708) as a setting for Psalm 42. ST. ANNE became a setting for "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), and the two have been inseparable ever since.
ST. ANNE shares its first melodic motif with a number of other tunes from the early eighteenth century; one example is Bach's great fugue in E-flat, nicknamed "St. Anne," though it uses only the first motif of ST. ANNE. The original "gathering notes" (where the first note of each phrase is doubled in length) have been changed to equal the tune's prevailing quarter-note rhythms. ST. ANNE is a strong tune that must not be sung too rapidly.
— Bert Polman

Call to Worship

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.
—Psalm 107:1-9, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

Loving God,
you created heaven and earth out of nothing.
You uphold and rule heaven and earth
by your eternal counsel and providence.
We give you praise, almighty God.
God of eternity,
you not only created each of us,
but you sustain and form each of us
with your Holy Spirit.
We worship you, Creator God.
You provide whatever we need for body and soul.
You guide us and guard us.
We trust in you, God, our Maker; Jesus, our Mediator;
Holy Spirit, our Comforter.
As we turn toward the promise of a new year,
allow us to look back and to look ahead,
to see the places in the past
where your promises have upheld us,
and to look to an unknown future
with confidence and trust in you.
In the strong name of Christ we pray. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Confession

Sing stanzas 1-3
 
We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
 
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your
presence.
 
If we only knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that
is your due.
 
Sing stanzas 4-5
 
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
 
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing
love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all
our days.
 
Make us glad for as many days as you
have afflicted us, for as many years as
we have seen trouble.
 
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
 
May the favor of the Lord our God rest
on us; establish the work of our hands
for us—yes, establish the work of our
hands.
 
Sing stanza 6

Blessing/Benediction

Covenant God, your Word tells us of your faithfulness in the lives of your people,
and we have seen your faithfulness in our lives.
May we confidently live in the peace and hope that come from being your children
so that we may share your love with others. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

God of every time and place,
apart from you, our life is brief and meaningless.
In you we experience endless abundance.
Reveal to us all we can comprehend of our place in your design for eternity.
Help us to receive each new day as a gift, and to use your gift wisely and well,
so that we may live in joy and bring glory to Christ your Son, our Lord. Amen. 

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.
Lord of heaven and earth,
we praise and thank you for upholding and ruling all creation
by your eternal providence:
for your sustaining hand in creation . . .
for providing leaders in government . . .
for church leaders . . .
for the way in which you have worked in this church . . .
for the riches you have lavished upon each one of us . . .
and for the great gift of your Son, through whom we are redeemed.
As our sovereign God holding our world and our lives in your hands,
we intercede on behalf of
the nations of the world . . .
those whom you have put in government . . .
our community and those who serve in it . . .
your church, that it may expand your kingdom, especially in . . .
We ask that your powerful hands may be evident in the lives of . . .
And in all circumstances may we have the faith
to hold on to your promise that you will work things out for our good,
even when we see no good.
We pray this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God,
to whom belongs the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two
405

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Tune Information

Name
ST. ANNE
Key
C Major
Meter
8.6.8.6

Recordings

405

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

Hymn Story/Background

Extracted from the opening section of Psalm 90, Isaac Watts’ famous paraphrase expresses great assurance, promise, and hope in the Lord; it functions as a second national anthem in Britain. The long-lasting union of Watts’ text and William Croft’s majestic tune was first fashioned in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).
 
Considered one of the finest paraphrases written by Isaac Watts,"O God, Our Help in Ages Past" expresses a strong note of assurance, promise, and hope in the LORD as recorded in the first part of Psalm 90, even though the entire psalm has a recurring theme of lament. Watts wrote the paraphrase in nine stanzas around 1714 and first published the text in his Psalms of David (1719). The first line, originally "Our God, our help … ," was changed to "O God, our help…” by John Wesley in his Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1738).
 
Though no firm documentation exists, ST. ANNE was probably composed by William Croft, possibly when he was organist from 1700-1711 at St. Anne's Church in Soho, London, England. (According to tradition, St. Anne was the mother of the Virgin Mary.) The tune was first published in A Supplement to the New Version (6th ed., 1708) as a setting for Psalm 42. ST. ANNE became a setting for "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), and the two have been inseparable ever since.
 
ST. ANNE shares its first melodic motif with a number of other tunes from the early eighteenth century; one example is Bach's great fugue in E-flat, nicknamed "St. Anne," though it uses only the first motif of ST. ANNE. The original "gathering notes" (where the first note of each phrase is doubled in length) have been changed to equal the tune's prevailing quarter-note rhythms. ST. ANNE is a strong tune that must not be sung too rapidly. 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Isaac Watts (b. Southampton, England, July 17, 1674; d. Bunfill Fields, England, November 25, 1748) was a precocious student and voracious reader. As a youth he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew. He declined an offer to study at Oxford and chose instead to attend an independent academy in Stoke Newington (1690-1694). From 1696 to 1701 Watts was tutor for the family of Sir John Hartopp, and in 1702 he became the pastor of Mark Lane Independent Chapel in London. However, ill health, which he had suffered for some years, took a serious turn in 1712. After that time he served the Mark Lane Chapel only on a part-time basis and moved into the estate of Sir Thomas Abney to became the family chaplain, a position he held for the rest of his life. During the following thirty-six years Watts was a prolific author—writing books about theology, philosophy (including an influential textbook, Logic), and education, as well as conducting a voluminous correspondence.
 
Today, Watts is best remembered for his psalm paraphrases and hymns. Many of his contemporaries were exclusive psalm singers. After complaining about the poor quality of many of the psalm paraphrases, the teenager Watts was challenged by his father, "Give us something better!" So he began to write new psalm versifications in which he deliberately chose not to follow closely the King James text but instead to interpret the Old Testament psalms through contemporary British Christian and New Testament eyes.
 
The next step was to write hymns rather than Scripture paraphrases. What he called "hymns of human composure" established him as the creator of the modern English hymn; he is known as the "father of English hymnody." Altogether, Watts wrote more than six hundred psalm and hymn texts, which were published in his Horae Lyricae (1706), Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1707), Divine Songs . . . for the Use of Children (1715), The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (1719), and Sermons and Hymns (1721-1727). Most of Watts' texts use the traditional British ballad meters (Short Meter, Common Meter, and Long Meter) and state their theme in often memorable first lines. His work became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, including the United States, where, following the American Revolution, Watts' texts were edited by Timothy Dwight in 1801 to remove their British connotations. Several of his versifications and hymns are still found in most hymnals; especially loved are the paraphrase of Psalm 90, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," and the hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

William Croft (b. Nether Ettington, Warwickshire, England, 1678; d. Bath, Somerset, England, 1727) was a boy chorister in the Chapel Royal in London and then an organist at St. Anne's, Soho. Later he became organist, composer, and master of the children of the Chapel Royal, and eventually organist at Westminster Abbey. His duties at the Chapel Royal were expanded in 1715 to include teaching boys reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as composition and organ playing. Croft published a two-volume collection of his church music, Musica sacra (1724), in one score rather than in separate part books, and in his preface encouraged others to do likewise. He contributed psalm tunes to The Divine Companion (1707) and to the Supplement to the New Version of Psalms by Dr. Brady and Mr. Tate (1708), which included HANOVER. These tunes mark a new development in English psalm tunes.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

Isaiah 41:9-10 says, "I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." No matter our situation, no matter our struggles and fears, no matter doubts, we are told to have courage, for the Lord is our God. And as Isaac Watts writes so powerfully in this hymn, our God is everlasting, and will be our help through all of our years. The first verse gives us every assurance we need: God is our help, our hope, and our home. This does not blithely dismiss our fears and troubles. They are, and always will be, very real. But it does assure us that even if we cannot feel the immediate comfort, or even when all we can do is lament, we have a God that withstands the storms of the life and the tests of time, and who protects us and hears our cries.
— Laura de Jong

The most powerful experience I’ve ever had singing "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" was in Africa in 2004. I was attending an international conference of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Ghana, where about 1000 delegates and guests gathered from more than 100 countries. On the first Sunday of the Assembly, we met in a huge square in Accra, the capital city, where we gathered with thousands more from dozens of local congregations for this festive service, sitting under many canopies to shelter us from the sun. The service began with a mass choir processional, led in by dancers, and drummers, and then the hymn began: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." I could hardly sing, I was so moved by this picture of the diverse body of Christ singing this ancient prayer of Moses.
 
When we sing this song today anywhere outside of England, we have received it by adoption, handed down by a huge cloud of witnesses. Something happened to me in Ghana that day: I understood like I never had before, that "they" were not singing "my" hymn, but that both North American and Ghana and Chinese churches too have adopted this hymn from England.
 
The "us" and "them" categories that are so insidious and pervasive in human nature fall away when we truly own our unity in Christ as one body. Wherever we sing this song outside of England, we have received it by adoption.
— Emily Brink
You have access to this FlexScore.
Download:
Are parts of this score outside of your desired range? Try transposing this FlexScore.
General Settings
Stanza Selection
Voice Selection
Text size:
Music size:
Transpose (Half Steps):
Capo:
Contacting server...
Contacting server...

Questions? Check out the FAQ

A separate copy of this score must be purchased for each choir member. If this score will be projected or included in a bulletin, usage must be reported to a licensing agent (e.g. CCLI, OneLicense, etc).

This is a preview of your FlexScore.
Suggestions or corrections? Contact us



Advertisements