Let Us Break Bread Together

Representative Text

1 Let us break bread together on our knees;
let us break bread together on our knees;

When I fall on my knees
with my face to the rising sun,
O Lord, have mercy on me.

2 Let us drink wine together on our knees;
let us drink wine together on our knees. [Refrain]

3 Let us praise God together on our knees;
let us praise God together on our knees. [Refrain]

Source: Hymns of Promise: a large print songbook #183


Some of the stanzas of this African American spiritual may date back to the eighteenth century. Other stanzas have been added by oral tradition. A look through modern hymnals will reveal an array of variations on the text. The most notable alteration in the Psalter Hymnal is the phrase "to the Lord of life" in place of the original "to the rising sun," in which "sun" was an ambiguous metaphor referring to God. The song's use at communion services probably dates from after the American Civil War. Miles Mark Fisher notes in Negro Slave Songs in the United States (1953),
[Originally the hymn] relates hardly at all to holy communion, which does not necessarily require early morning administration or a devotee who faces east. [This] it seems was a signal song of Virginia slaves during the eighteenth century who used it and similar ones to convene their secret meetings.
The text discerns participation in the Lord's Supper as a humble act in which we not only eat the bread (st. 1) and drink the wine (st. 2) but also praise our God (st. 3) "on our knees." The refrain ends with a prayer for mercy, an African American kyrie (see PHH 258) that reminds us of the tax collector's prayer in Luke 18:13. Liturgical Use: Lord's Supper–during preparation for the sacrament or during distribution of the bread and wine. --Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988



The tune BREAK BREAD TOGETHER, like the text, has been subject to variation. It became widely known after publication in The Second Book of Negro Spirituals (1926), compiled by the brothers James Weldon Johnson and Rosamond Johnson. The tune gained further popularity through a variety of choral arra…

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Baptist Hymnal 1991 #366
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The Cyber Hymnal #3672
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Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #304
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Sing Joyfully #265


Instances (1 - 51 of 51)Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreFlexScoreAudioPage Scan
African American Heritage Hymnal #686TextPage Scan
Ambassador Hymnal: for Lutheran worship #285
Anglican Hymns Old and New (Rev. and Enl.) #431
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #366TextAudioPage Scan
Baptist Hymnal 2008 #399TextFlexscorePage Scan
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #461Text
Chalice Hymnal #425Text
Church Hymnal, Fifth Edition #428
Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New #387Text
Complete Mission Praise #414
Discipleship Ministries Collection #124Text
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #471TextFlexscorePage Scan
Gather Comprehensive #832TextPage Scan
Gather Comprehensive, Second Edition #832
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #525Text InfoTextAudio
Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #325TextPage Scan
Hymnal: A Worship Book #453
Hymns Ancient & Modern, New Standard Edition #480
Hymns and Psalms: a Methodist and ecumenical hymn book #615
Hymns for a Pilgrim People: a congregational hymnal #524Text
Hymns of Promise: a large print songbook #183Text
Hymns of the Saints: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints #342
Hymns Old and New: New Anglican #299
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: an African American hymnal #152Text
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #837TextFlexscore
Oramos Cantando = We Pray In Song #762
Praise! Our Songs and Hymns #162
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #513Text
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #304Text InfoTune InfoTextScoreAudio
Rejoice Hymns #333
Rejoice in the Lord #545TextPage Scan
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #403
Sing and Rejoice!: new hymns for congregations #55
Sing Joyfully #265TextScoreFlexscoreAudioPage Scan
Singing the Faith #592
Small Church Music #93Audio
The Celebration Hymnal: songs and hymns for worship #460Text
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #572
The Cyber Hymnal #3672TextScore
The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #323Text
The New Century Hymnal #330TextPage Scan
The New National Baptist Hymnal #488
The United Methodist Hymnal #618TextAudio
The Worshiping Church #776Text
This Far By Faith: an African American resource for worship #123Text
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #480Text
Worship (3rd ed.) #727Text
Worship and Rejoice #699Text
Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal #326
生命聖詩 - Hymns of Life, 1986 #234Text
찬송과 예배 = Chansong gwa yebae = Come, Let Us Worship: the Korean-English Presbyterian hymnal and service book #236
Include 29 pre-1979 instances
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