Category Archives: Funeral Songs

Funeral Songs (Part 6) – “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” by Henry van Dyke (and Ludwig van Beethoven)

Dear God, this will wrap up the funeral songs series I’ve been doing this week. It’s been a fun exercise to kind of go through the songs I would want played and my funeral and think through what the message is that I’m trying to send to the attendees. Frankly, I doubt any of them will get it anyway.

One thing I hope I’m accomplishing is some advice I received from a friend who was widowed much too early in life. She told me that her husband had some very common funeral songs at his funeral, and now it can be hard to go to funerals because at least one of the songs will remind her of her loss. So I’ve hopefully at least picked some songs that 1.) won’t hurt my wife should I die first and 2.) won’t bring up bad memories for others.

Regarding this song, this was also the recessional at our wedding. I think it was my choice, but I’m not positive. I know I at least had some input on it. I’ve always loved it as a song of joy, and if I’m going to have the brass quintet at my funeral, this song should sound pretty good for people as they leave.

Here are the words as written by Henry van Dyke in 1907

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” by Henry van Dyke

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.

I wonder what kind of worship state Mr. van Dyke was in when he wrote these words to accompany Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Was he listening to the German words and felt compelled to put his own worship of you to the tune?

The thing about this song is that it acknowledges that EVERYTHING either is worshiping or will worship you–Earth, heaven, stars, angels, fields, forests, mountains, vales, meadows, seas, birds, fountains, and mortals. And there is so much to worship! Your love for us and our love for you melts the clouds of sin and sadness. It drives the dark of doubt away. And the last verse is just great. We get to join the chorus that the stars began. You reign over us, and our love binds us to you and each other. We are victors in the midst of strife (how great is that?).

Father, I’m not sure if this week did anything to edify me or increase my relationship with you, but I do feel like I was able to look at some of these songs in a new way and understand why they mean so much to me. I was also able to get in some good worship. So I end this series with the simple statement that I love you and I hope that I honor you and bring you glory in my life and in my death.

In Jesus’ name I pray,




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Funeral Songs (Part 5) – “Come Thou Fount” by Robert Robinson

Dear God, this has been an interesting series for me to do with you–the songs I would choose for my funeral. What do they say about me? What do they say about what I want to communicate to the world?

I’m up to a song that I love for the last part of the last verse. It’s a great song, but it’s the humble honesty of those last lines that make it so powerful. Here’s the whole song:

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there by Thy great help I’ve come
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Oh, that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Clothed then in the blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy wondrous grace
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above


Each verse has so much in it that I’m not even sure how to do this without taking two hours and I have a meeting at work in an hour.

The first verse mentions teaching me to sing your praise for the streams of mercy from you that are never ceasing. And letting it be the Holy Spirit and angels who teach me.

Notice the italicized words in verses two and three. This is what I meant in the first one I did in this series when I said I would have this song sung “Howard Butt, Jr. style.” At his funeral, they replaced the second have of the second and third verses with the last part of the song: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love/Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it/Seal it for thy courts above.”

I was listening to a sermon this morning on my phone and I heard the pastor talking about how your glory fades from us when we walk away from you. And it frustrates all of us. I’ve heard that Mother Theresa wrote letters indicating that the last part of this song applied to her. Howard Butt, Jr. obviously thought it applied to him. And I can tell you it applies to me. I am prone to wander and leave you.

Father, here’s my heart. Please take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in Funeral Songs, Hymns and Songs


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Funeral Songs (Part 4) – “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther

Dear God, as I continue this series of songs I would want played at my funeral, I’m up to the processional. I must admit that I’m the least confident in this one. I picked it purely on an experience I had at Howard Butt, Jr’s funeral. They played this as the processional with a brass quintet and I was so moved! The power and triumphant feeling brought about by those first notes being blasted by brass instruments was overwhelming. You always hear about people who say they want their funeral to be a “celebration.” Well, it’s hard to not feel like it was a celebration when you involve a brass quintet.

It was the first words of the song that lent itself to the emotion for me: “A mighty fortress is our God.” Yes, you are might! You are amazing! You are our redeemer! You are our fortress! Death cannot contain you, and, therefore, it cannot contain us because you are our mighty fortress!

Here are the lyrics to the song:

A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing:
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work his woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth is his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure,—
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers—
No thanks to them—abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also:
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is for ever.

Martin Luther was obviously very in tune with spiritual warfare. It’s pretty impressive to see the amount of thought that went into explaining his view of how you and Satan collide in this world. I wonder what he was experiencing that inspired it.

But the reason I am doing this series is because I’m trying to figure out what these songs are saying that I want to communicate to the audience at my funeral. What is my last message to those who knew me? In this song’s case, I think it is that I want there to be great confidence for everyone there, from the beginning, that the victory is won. This might be a time of earthly loss, for which some of them might actually be sad, but this is not even a battle lost. Nothing has changed in the divine spiritual order. You are God and our enemy, Satan, cannot overcome you.

Father, help me to live that message while I am alive. I am preaching again this week, and the sermon I’m praying through is starting to gel. It’s about why we put our faith in you and why we encourage others to do the same. The beginning of it is, you are our mighty fortress and you took the time to make a way for us to experience that grace and relationship with you. Thank you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



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Funeral Songs (Part 3) – “Be With You” by Rich Mullins

For anyone reading along with these prayer journals, this is a series in which songs I would want played at my funeral. Here is a link to the original post for more explanation.


Dear God, I’m up to the third song on my funeral song list and the last one for the slideshow. I decided to keep the slideshow all from Rich Mullins. In this case, this is the first ever funeral song I ever picked. I probably first heard this in my early 20s and I told my fiancé (now wife) that this would make a great song for my funeral.

Be With You” by Rich Mullins

Everybody, each and all, we’re going to die eventually
It’s no more or less our faults than it is our destiny
So now, Lord, I come to you asking only for your grace
You know what I’ve put myself through
All those empty dreams I chased

And when my body lies in the ruins
Of the lies that nearly ruined me
Will you pick up the pieces that were pure and true
And breathe life into them, and sent them free?
And when you start this world over again from scratch
Will you make me anew out of the stuff that lasts?
Stuff that’s purer than gold is, and clearer than glass can ever be
And can I be with you? Can I be with you?

And everybody, all and each, from the day that we are born
We have to learn to walk beneath, those mercies by which we are drawn
And now we wrestle in the dark with these angels that we can’t see
We will move on, although with scars.
Oh, Lord, move inside of me!

And when my body lies in the ruins
Of the lies that nearly ruined me
Will you pick up the pieces that were pure and true
And breathe life into them, and sent them free?
And blast this cosmos to kingdom come
When those jagged edged mountains I love are gone
When the sky is crossed with the tears of a thousand falling suns
As they crash into the sea
Then can I be with you? Can I be with you?

Well, it’s pretty obvious why I think this is a funeral song. What is it I want to say to those who ware at my funeral? I guess my message is, “It’s okay. I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

The first verse is really just about the reality of death. But the chorus is a worshipful response to that, acknowledging my sin–my lies, my selfishness, my vanity. Then it’s followed up by the hope. I will be recreated in a new Heaven. I will be yours. I will be your worshipper.

The second verse talks about the journey of life. It’s a struggle. It is, indeed, a journey of mistakes, wrestling with you, getting scarred up, but allowing the scars to make us stronger. Oh, Lord, even today, move inside of me!

Finally, the last chorus changes at the end and brings us to the end of Earth and the beginning of the new Earth and the new Heaven. If the apocalypse should come before my death, then can I be with you? Can I be with you?

In Jesus’ name I pray,



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Funeral Songs (Part 2) – “The Love of God” by Rich Mullins

Dear God, as I go through the list of songs that I would have played as part of my own funeral one day, I’m up to the second one for the slideshow. In case anyone is reading these, here is a link to the first entry that will explain this a little more.

So now I’m up to “The Love of God” by Rich Mullins. I actually just journaled on this song a couple of weeks ago, but this is a different topic and reason for looking at this song so I’ll press on.

Here are the lyrics:

The Love of God” by Rich Mullins

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And it keeps this fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
It keeps me aching with the yearning
It keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless, raging fury
They call the Love of God

Now I have seen no band of angels
But I’ve heard the soldiers’ song
Love hangs over them like a banner
Love within them leads them on
To the battle on the journey
And it’s never going to stop
Ever widening their mercies
And the fury of his love

Oh, the love of God!
Oh, the love of God!
The love of God!

Joy and sorrow are in this oceans
They’re in its every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all hell could never close
Here I’m tested and made worthy
Tossed about, yet lifted up
In the reckless, raging fury
That they call the love of God

I can’t for the life of me figure out why Rich said one time that he didn’t particularly care for this song. Was there something about it with which he disagreed? Were there too many times when he didn’t feel your reckless, raging fury of love?

Today, I want to focus on the mercy part of this song. In the second verse it says, “Now I have seen no band of angels/But I’ve heard the soldiers’ song/Love hangs over them like a banner/Love within them leads them on/To the battle on the journey/And it’s never going to stop/Ever widening their mercy/And the fury of his love.” It’s the journey that grows us. It’s the battle. It’s the battle against Satan. And we can fall victim to his plans or we can walk under your banner of love. Your love drives us forward. We carry your love and your Holy Spirit into the battle. And if we will stay under your banner then the battle will refine us and widen our mercy for others. It will also reveal to us more and more the fury of your love. Sorry, Rich, but you’re wrong. This is a great song.

Father, I am about to talk to a congregation about bitterness and unforgiveness. Absalom was obviously just going through the motions when he did sacrifices to you. It was a ritual to him–it wasn’t worship. If it had really been worship then he would have known that he would only be able to be king if you ordained it, not because he was good enough. Help everything that I do in relation to you be through true, God-seeking, Holy Spirit-driven, and Jesus’ redemption-receiving worship.

I pray all of this in Jesus’ name,



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Funeral Songs (Part 1) – “Elijah” by Rich Mullins

Dear God, I was talking with a friend recently about the songs I would want played at my funeral. I have a couple in mind, but as I woke up this morning and thought about praying to you in this journal, I got to wondering about those songs and what they say both about my relationship with you and what they reveal about what I want to say to others in one last message to them.

So, first, I need to look at the songs. Here is what I have:

If I can’t speak at my funeral, and I won’t get to write the eulogy, these will be my words to the people there. What am I trying to say with each one?


The Jordan is waiting for me to cross through
My heart is aging, I can tell
So, Lord, I’m begging for one last favor from you
Here’s my heart, take it where you will
This life has shown me how we’re mended and how we’re torn
How it’s okay to be lonely as long as we’re free
Sometimes my ground was stony, and sometimes covered up with thorns
And only you could make it what it had to be
And not that it’s done, Well, if they dressed me like a pauper
Or if they dined me like a prince
If they lay me with my fathers
Or if my ashes scatter on the wind I don’t care!

When I leave I want to go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the starts
Well it’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye

There’s people been friendly, but they’d never be your friend
Sometimes this has bent me to the ground
Now that this is all ending, I want to hear some music once again
‘Cause it’s the finest thing I have ever found
But the Jordan is waiting, Though I ain’t never seen the other side
They say you can’t take in the things you have here
So on the road to salvation, I stick out my thumb and He gives me a ride
And His music is already falling on my ears

There’s people been talking, They say they’re worried about my sould
Well, I’m here to tell you I’ll keep rocking, ’til I’m sure it’s my time to roll
And when I do

When I leave I wan to go out like Elijah,
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
Well, it’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye

I think I want this song to kick off the slideshow (is this prayer too morbid?), but I think I’ll need to make sure the lyrics for all of these songs are provided for people to at least look at later.

Rich died in a dramatic car accident about one month shy of his 42nd birthday, but then I guess you know that. But I think he wrote this song in his 20s. I try to imagine him reading the story of Elijah and putting himself in Elijah’s position, but I’ve always found it interesting that someone so young could write the lyrics, “my heart is aging, I can tell.” I think there are moments, no matter how young we are, when we feel beaten down and our hearts feel old. Even a 15-year-old can experience an old-feeling heart. But there is something about this song that just feels hopeful. It speaks a message to me that says, “Yes, you can get tired on this journey, but there will be some goodness and some respite on the way–and believe me, there’s something amazing to come.

I really like the second verse when it talks about the music: “Now that this is all ending, I want to hear some music once again/’Cause it’s the finest thing I have ever found…So on the road to salvation, I stick out my thumb and He gives me a ride/And His music is already falling on my ears.” Obviously as a musician, Rich loved music. But I think most of us do. You built us to love music in a special way for some reason. Words put to a tune are even easier to remember than words without a tune. I like how he mentions here that he can imagine something that he loves this side of the Jordan is provided for, and even more so, on the other side of the Jordan.

Father, I think I’m going to spend the next few days going through these songs and thinking about why they touch me and what I hope they say about me and about you to those who are gathered to look back on my life. If nothing else, my desire is that they will see someone with flaws–many, many flaws–but who earnestly loved you and did his best to get over himself and point others to you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,



Posted by on August 11, 2018 in Funeral Songs, Hymns and Songs


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