This splendid hymn of praise has personal significance for Mary Ann and me, as it was the first hymn at our wedding (we celebrated our 24th anniversary earlier this week).
The German original Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren was written by Joachim Neander shortly before his death in 1680 at the early age of 30, set to the tune it is still sung to today, which was Neander’s adaptation of a chorale by J. Cruger. It is strongly influenced by the language of the Psalms, especially Psalm 103;1-6 and Psalm 150.
The New Methodist Hymn-Book Illustrated gives a brief summary of Neander’s life:
Neander was born in Bremen, 1650. He went to criticize Theodore Under-Eyek, who had come to Bremen with a reputation as a Pietist, but the sermon and the conversation with the preacher was the turning point in his spiritual life. He was tutor to five pupils with whom he went to the University of Heidelberg. In 1674 he became Rector of the Latin School at Dusseldorf. He held prayer-meetings without consulting the pastor and absented himself from holy Communion as he could not take it with the unconverted. This led to his removal from his post in February, 1677. In 1679 he became lay assistant to Under-Eyek, but died of a decline on May 31, 1680.
(Interesting trivia: Neander gave his name to the Neander valley, or Neanderthal, a few miles outside Dusseldorf. The Neanderthal valley gave its name to the hominid species discovered in a cave in the valley. The name Neander is in turn a Greek version of the German surname Neumann (‘New Man’))
The version sung today in Methodist churches is based on the translation by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), a pioneer of women’s education in Britain. She made a number of translations of German hymns, and published two collections of hymns from the German. ‘Praise to the Lord’ was included in her second collection The Chorale Book for England (1863). Verses 1, 2 and 5 are basically by Winkworth; verse 3 is a new translation from the German by Rupert E. Davies and verse 4 first appeared in the English Hymnal (1906).
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, brothers and sisters draw near,
Praise him in glad adoration.
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely his goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
Who with his love doth befriend thee.
Praise to the Lord, who doth nourish thy life and restore thee,
fitting thee well for the tasks that are ever before thee,
then to thy need he like a mother doth speed,
spreading the wings of grace o’er thee.
Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
sheddeth his light, chaseth the horrors of night,
saints with his mercy surrounding.
Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him!
Let the Amen sound from his people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.
Joachim Neander (1650-1680) translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) and Rupert E. Davies (1909-1994)