Dr. Dan Hayden •

What is your favorite hymn? It is “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” or “To God be the Glory,” or “How Great Thou Art”? There are so many wonderful hymns that I have a hard time picking a favorite. If you push me, though, I’d probably say “Amazing Grace.”

Hymns have long been a part of church worship. Yet most of the hymns in our hymnbooks have come to us since the time of the Reformation (within the last 500 years). There is no question, however, that the early First Century Church also had hymns. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The early church didn’t just sing the psalms; they also sang hymns of praise to God.


The word “hymn” actually comes from the Greek word hymnois — and our English word “hymn” is simply a transliteration of that word. It apparently comes from an older root word meaning “to celebrate”

So a hymn is really a celebration of God in song. It is different from other spiritual songs, in that it is a religious ode – “a lyric poem marked by nobility of feeling and solemnity of style.” A hymn has a sense of grandeur and elegance.

After the terrorist bombings on September 11, 2001, the following Sunday there were solemn services in churches all across America. One of the hymns sung that day to instill courage and confidence into the hearts of God’s people was the old hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Martin Luther wrote that hymn expressing the truth of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” What a verse! What a hymn!

Now you know the real meaning of the word. Say – Don’t just sing the hymns. Think about what they are saying and sing from the heart. They are lyric poems to uplift the soul.