Songs of Praise and Prayers of Worship

It’s important that we take time in talking to God to step back from praying for things, and remembering just to praise Him for being God.  And when it comes to true “worship” hymns and prayers, nobody beats Catholics (although there are some great non-Catholic contributions in this field, for sure).  Anyways, I thought I’d share some of my favorites today, ones which we hear, sing, and pray so often that it’s easy to overlook the beauty of what’s being said about God. 

(1) Gloria in Excelsis Deo

The version I’m used to goes:

Glory to God in the highest

and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Granted, the second verse is a prayer for forgiveness, but the focus is squarely upon the majesty of God, so I’ll stand by it.  Anyways, I discovered in looking up the text thtat there are a lot of other versions, and that ICEL (the Catholic liturgical folks) actually published a version that I might like even better.  The first verse of the ICEL version goes like this:

Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise You,
we bless You,
we adore You,
we glorify You,
we give You thanks for Your great glory,
Lord God, Heavenly King,
O God, Almighty Father.

It’s beautiful, and it’s modelled off of the prayer of the angels in Luke 2:14.  We raise these hymns of praise with the choirs of angels.  Intense.

 (2) Sanctus

T´╗┐his is another prayer from the Mass, and one which might get lost in the beauty of the other Eucharistic prayers.  In English, the prayer goes:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Again, the prayer is modelled off of the hymns of the angels in Scripture: this time, Isaiah 6:3.  It’s beautiful.  Once you know what’s being said, I think the Latin version is actually more beautiful, if only that

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.

It may just be that, for me, praying it in Latin hints at the prayer’s transcendence. That is, we’re not just offering up the intentions of our hearts, but we’re offering them up with the saints around the world, and the angels and saints in Heaven, in a harmonous symphony to God.

(3) Te Deum

The Te Deum used to be a part of the Roman Liturgy, but isn’t in the newer form: its absence is surely felt. In English, it goes:

O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy
Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.

V. Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thy inheritance!
R. Govern them, and raise them up forever.

V. Every day we thank Thee.
R. And we praise Thy Name forever, yes, forever and ever.

V. O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.

V. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R. O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.

When St. Edmund Campion and the other Jesuit martyrs were condemned to death for the faith in the sixteenth century, they broke out in praise to God for the honor of being martyred, and it was this song they raised.   Truly, Lord, “The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.”

(4) Holy God, We Praise Thy Name

It might be cheating to include this song, since it’s based on the Te Deum, but it’s sufficiently distinct to be worth mentioning separate.  It’s a wonderful song:

Holy God, we praise Thy Name;
Lord of all, we bow before Thee!
All on earth Thy scepter claim,
All in heaven above adore Thee;
Infinite Thy vast domain,
Everlasting is Thy reign.

Hark! the loud celestial hymn
Angel choirs above are raising,
Cherubim and seraphim,
In unceasing chorus praising;
Fill the heavens with sweet accord:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord.

Lo! the apostolic train
Join the sacred Name to hallow;
Prophets swell the loud refrain,
And the white-robed martyrs follow;
And from morn to set of sun,
Through the Church the song goes on.

Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee;
While in essence only One,
Undivided God we claim Thee;
And adoring bend the knee,
While we own the mystery.

The song is simple, in the sense that we’re not asking for anything, we’re not apologizing for anything, we’re just saying, essentially, “You’re God, and that’s incredible.  That’s outstanding.  Let us worship you.”  I’ve never heard the third verse sung, but it’s nice to know that it exists, because it corresponds to the middle part of the Te Deum.

Anyways, those are four of my favorite hymns and prayers of worship.  If you’ve got other picks, I’m interested in hearing what they are!


  1. Thank you for pointing out some of the wonderful hymns of adoration and praise that are contained in the liturgy.

    Where I get frustrated at times is in the selection of hymns that aren’t already specifically built into the liturgy. They’re what we’d call the Entrance hymn, the Offertory hymn, The Communion hymn, and The Recessional Hymn (of course now we call them corny names like “gathering” or “sending forth” hymns). There is some music that has a good Catholic or at least Christian message that may be nice for a charismatic prayer meeting or maybe a sing-a-long around a bonfire, but which don’t have the gravitas or dignity or reverence of a hymn that would be chosen for liturgical use.

    Thanks for letting me vent. I’m good now!

  2. Leon,

    I agree. So does the wit who made this:
    The line about how just because you like the Addam’s Family theme song doesn’t make it Mass-appropriate struck me as some sort of brilliant.

    I also think that different parts of the Mass call for different forms of music. For the Entrance hymn, I’m all for solid Catholic music that the congregation sings along, hymns like, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” or “Now Thank We All Our God,” etc. It’s a good way to begin, it draws people in, etc. But at Communion time and immediately afterwards, I don’t even want those songs. I’m for praying the Communion Antiphon, and then having it be silent, or a meditative song from the choir, something like the Ave Maria that draws the spirit up, and which we’re not expected to sing along to. In other words, music to silenty pray through.

  3. In my book of Morning and Evening Prayer, it gives another verse to Holy God, we praise thy name, and it goes like this:

    Spare thy people, Lord, we pray,
    By a thousand snares surrounded;
    Keep us without sin today;
    Never let us be confounded.
    Lo, I put my trust in thee;
    Never, Lord, abandon me.

    And in looking up the song online, I found the three other verses which would make it correspond to the entire Te Deum. The whole thing can be found at the following link.

  4. Joe,
    (Is there a way to just comment or ask a question on your blog, not attached to a particular daily blog?)

    Today’s readings being about prayer, our priest shared what he said was a true story.The story also is relevant to the science/religion debate…
    Two boys were on the train destined to the university in Paris. An old bearded man was sitting near them quietly reciting prayers with a rosary. As they departed, they taunted the man. “Science will cure the world, not those stupid beads!” Their first day of class they sat in shock as that bearded old man walked into the classroom and announced,”Bonjour, my name is Professor Louis Pasteur.”

  5. Sprachmeister, nice! Thanks for sharing that.

    Bill, there’s not currently a way to just post comments generally. I’m fine with you (or anyone) posting on issues unrelated to the post, but if you want, I could look into some sort of general “Questions?” link.

    I loved the Pasteur story. I hadn’t ever heard that before, and I hope it’s true. In either case, you’re right that he’s a great example of how faith and science can harmoniously co-exist: the man died with his rosary in his hands. Perfectly fitting for the man who advanced our knowledge of streptococcus (which is shaped like a rosary-looking chain).

    Thanks to you both!


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