“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”—1 Thessalonians 5:18–18
In Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica, thankfulness rounds out the three postures that God desires from us. Along with joyfulness and prayerfulness, a sense of gratitude shields our heart from the doubt and cynicism that arises from life’s everyday struggles.
Here are ten worship songs that will encourage thankfulness in your church.
Hymns about thankfulness
1. Praise to the Lord the Almighty by Joachim Neander
This hymn first surfaced in 1680, written by reformed teacher and theologian, Joachim Neander. Neander, who wrote approximately 60 hymns, died from tuberculosis at the age of thirty.
“Praise to the Lord the Almighty” was translated into English nearly 300 years later by Catherine Winkworth, whose translation work had a significant impact on 19th-century hymnody.
Everything about this classic hymn lifts the attention and spirits of worshipers upward. It reminds us of his amazing attributes, as his individual attention and care. It sports a melody that’s both anthemic and beautiful.
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
now to his temple draw near;
praise him in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen
how thy desires ever have been
granted in what he ordaineth?
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
what the Almighty can do,
if with his love he befriend thee.
Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
biddeth them cease,
turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.
2. To God Be the Glory by Fanny Crosby
If you’ve ever sung hymns in church, you’re likely familiar with Fanny Crosby. She’s probably written more hymns in the 20th century than any other nonliturgical hymn writer. What makes “To God Be the Glory” unique among Crosby’s writings is that it is entirely about God and his majesty, unlike a majority of her other hymns which tend to focus on our experience of God.
For the Christian, thankfulness is about recognizing and responding to God’s perfect qualities. This hymn offers a great call and response between who God is and the praise which bubble up as a natural response.
To God be the glory, great things he has done;
so loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord; let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord; let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory; great things he has done.
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
to every believer the promise of God;
the vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,
and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
but purer and higher and greater will be
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.
3. How Great Thou Art by Carl Boberg
Carl Boberg was a member of Swedish parliament in 1885. He and some friends had attended an afternoon service on a spring day in Kronobäck, and on their walk home a thunderstorm tore through the valley. They rushed to find shelter and watched the winds howl, the thunder roar, and the lightning flash in the darkened afternoon sky. The storm quickly passed and was immediately replaced with a resplendent rainbow.
Carl returned home and wrote the poem “O Store Gud” (How Great Thou Art). Nothing really became of the nine-verse poem until three years later when someone liked it enough to match it to a traditional Swedish melody. When Boberg heard it, he published the hymn with along with the melody and it became a church staple sung around the world.
When it comes to generating a thankful spirit, “How Great Thou Art” is masterful. It builds perfectly from a verse about God’s majesty into a verse about God’s mercy, and finally, into a powerful passage about his imminent return.
Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
And when I think of God,
His son not sparing,
Sent Him to die,
I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden
gladly bearing He bled and died
to take away my sin
When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow
With humble adoration
And then proclaim My God
How great Thou art
4. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts
Legend has it that a young Isaac Watts was complaining to his father about the hymns being sung in church. They tended to by metered renditions of the Psalms sung by a cantor and then repeated unenthusiastically by the congregation. Watts’ father dismissed him, “I’d like to see you write something better.”
Several hours later, Watts came out of his room having written his first hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Originally intended as a song for celebrating communion, it has become a powerful Lenten reflection inspiring genuine and heartfelt appreciation for the work done on Calvary.
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Worship songs about thankfulness
5. There Is a Redeemer by Melody Green
Before she met her husband, Melody Green has looked in a lot of places for the truth. She had tried Buddhism and embraced the drug culture of the late sixties. When she met Keith Green 1972, she suddenly had a partner in her search for meaning. They both found what they were looking for in a 1975 Bible study.
Keith became one of the fathers of contemporary Christian music, but it was Melody that penned one of his most recognizable songs. Appearing in more than 21 hymnals, “There Is a Redeemer” is a simple tune that portrays Christ as God’s ultimate gift. Each verse returns to an effective chorus of gratitude, “Thank you, oh my father . . .”
There is a redeemer
Jesus, God’s own Son
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Jesus my redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain
Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
‘Til the work on Earth is done
6. Give Thanks by Henry Smith
Henry Smith had recently graduated from college, and struggled to find work. He penned this song at home as a reminder to himself. He performed it at church with his wife a couple times, but didn’t really think anything of it. It turns out that one of those Sundays there was a military couple who took the song back to Germany with them.
Without Smith’s knowledge, the song began to take off. Eight years later a friend of his played him a cassette tape. “See if you recognize this,” he said. After a couple moments, Smith yelled, “Hey! I wrote that song!”
It has become one of the most popular thanksgiving songs in the church’s repertoire.
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son
And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us”
7. Forever by Chris Tomlin
Churches all over the world sing Tomlin’s songs. “Forever” has become one of his modern classics. Built on a very simple premise, Tomlin calls worshipers to give thanks to God because of his love which is neverending.
Give thanks to the Lord our God and King
His love endures forever
For He is good, He is above all things
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
8. My Savior, My God by Aaron Shust
One of the greatest attributes of “My Savior, My God” is that it engenders gratefulness without explicitly encouraging it. It’s a reflective look at our human limitations and God’s vast goodness.
The words come from a 1873 hymn by Dorothy Greenwell with a chorus skillfully added by Shust.
I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed what God Has planned
I only know at his right hand
Stands one who is my Savior
I take him at his word and deed
Christ died to save me this I read
And in my heart I find the need
Of him to be my Savior
That he would leave his place on high
And come for sinful man to die
You called it strange so once did I
Before I knew my Savior
9. Once Again by Matt Redman
Matt Redman’s “Once Again” was released during the worship boom of the late 90’s and was an overnight sensation. Churches were instantly drawn into this prayerful and intimate song about the cross.
By the time worshipers sing the sparse, repeated bridge “thank you for the cross, my friend,” they’ve verbally recognized the suffering that was endured for their sake. It’s an effective song of thankfulness sung to Jesus, the friend of sinners.
Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice
You became nothing, poured out to death
Many times I’ve wondered at your gift of life
And I’m in that place once again
I’m in that place once again
And once again I look upon the cross where you died
I’m humbled by your mercy and I’m broken inside
Once again I thank you
Once again I pour out my life
10. 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman
Redman told Worship Leader Magazine about writing this popular song with his songwriting partner, Jonas Myrin “He played me an idea for some of the chorus melody, and I found it immediately inspiring. In fact, it felt like a perfect fit for a song based on the opening of Psalm 103.
The song came together really quickly—a good chunk of the song was actually a spontaneous moment.
I have no idea why some songs take months of writing and re-writing (like ‘Blessed Be Your Name’) and others arrive really swiftly (like this one). One thing I’ve realized over the years is there’s no distinct rule that says that something composed quickly must therefore be more spiritual or inspired! Yes, God-breathed inspired worship songs can at times be written very quickly and spontaneously—but at other times they’ve involved a lot of perseverance, perspiration, and hard work!”
Without ever saying so, “10,000 Reasons” talks about the song of thanksgiving that the worshiper will sing when they rise in the morning and when they lie down at night. This thankful song, as Redman reminds us, will reverberate throughout eternity.
Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
What are your favorite worship songs about thankfulness?
We’d love to hear what songs inspire gratitude in your congregation.
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