Contrary to popular beliefs, the origin of hymns predates the Christian era. Interestingly, the lyrics of ancient religious tunes give us an insightful glimpse of what music was like back then. Some composers of classical times had their lyrics written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyph and Greek. Rich examples include Great Hymn to the Aten composed by Akhenaten, an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh.
Also, ancient Hinduism traditions that flourished around 1400 BCE had a collection of hymns contained in Hinduism’s sacred texts, the Vedas. Seventh-century poets of ancient Greece were also popular with hymns praising their religious deities. Likewise, the Psalms of David, written in the old testament bible, shares the closest similarity to today’s Christian hymns. For instance, here's one popular Christian hymn and how it came about.
How Great Thou Art (1885)
How Great Thou Art came about during a very trying time. Author Carl Gustav Boberg had witnessed a thunderstorm that shook him to his marrows. He lived just above the mountains and seeing everything give way to the storm must have been terrifying.
After the storm came the calm and he was overwhelmed with worship. The result was How Great Thou Art. The hymn has endured over time with multiple translations into several languages.
1. Amazing Grace (1779)
"Amazing Grace" tops our list of most popular hymns sung on Earth. When John Newton composed this piece in the 18th century, he wrote it in worship and praise to God for saving his life.
According to history, Newton spent the early part of his prime as a slave trader. He was more thrilled with traveling the seas until 1748 when a storm hit his slave ship. Everything Newton lived for was about to vanish, and at that moment, he feared for his life and prayed to God for redemption. Years later, transformed as a pastor in England, he composed the hymn. From camps to revival events, "Amazing Grace" has grown in virtually all Christians communities, becoming a significant element of worship.
2. Holy, Holy, Holy (1861)
Many portions of the bible show scenarios where angels and prophets chant “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This expression was used when they encountered God or referred to Him.
In 1861, Reginald Heber, a minister in the Church of England, had written a hymn with this same expression in pure worship, although, the hymn was never found until after his death. His wife found the piece buried alongside many papers. The composition reached English hymn composer John B. Dykes in 1861, and the rest is history.
3. In Christ Alone (2001)
You’re probably wondering if any hymn from our millennium made the list? Of course. This collaboration between Keith Getty and Stuard Townsend offers a fresh page. The hymn tells the story of Redemption on the cross and the comforting love of Christ.
“In Christ alone my hope is found…” the lyrics talk about the peace that knowing the Christ brings. Over the years, it has grown to be a popular one for praise and worship leaders in churches and Christian events. It’s barely 20 years old, but might well be on its way to clinching the “Hymn of the Century” title.
String musical instruments were favorites of ancient cultures and the middle ages. Lyres and harps were used heavily as accompaniments during mass renditions. Later, in the Western Church, organs were adopted while the choir sang the hymns. Today, more musical instruments are available for use. Percussions like the drum now boldly accompany music in churches, while pianos are becoming crucial to worship.
One may perceive hymn songs to be the exclusive preserve of Christians. However, this may not be the case. Before Christendom, hymns featured heavily in the elements of other religions. Hymns in world religions usually expressed prayers and praise to a divine being. From ancient Egypt to Greece and India, hymns have always thrived. The Guru Granth Sahib, for instance, is a collection of hymns in the Sikhism religion devoted to God.
Here are some of the fastest ways to learn hymns:
• Watch the lyrics videos on YouTube.
• Search their lyrics online and sing along. Many Catholic, Pentecostal, and Christmas hymn songs have their lyrics online.
• Get hymn apps, most of them show you the lyrics as you play. That way, it's easier to learn.
Now you have our list of 5 most sung hymns with their stories. We hope that going forward, singing them becomes a more personal experience for you. Consider learning the lyrics of the hymn with the most exciting backstory for you. Start now by making a pick from our best hymns apps.
Christian Hymn Book is an English hymn lyrics application for Christians.100K+
- 87% positive reviews
- Editor's Choice
Thank you so much for this app! Great selection of hymns and songs. I use this to sing to my kids at night. 💜Laura Davidson
- 87% positive reviews
just the perfect hymn book. kindly unify the status bar colour to match the contents of the app (something like the shade of green used in the app would be great) .. yellow status bar is just waay off!Mica Otieno
Digital hymnal and music app of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.1M+
- 51 users said "helpful"
- Feature Rich
- Editor's Choice
I love this app! I listen to the youth music all the time and love it. I haven’t had any problems with it and like that I can change it between “music only” and “music and vocals”. I also love that you can pull up the sheet music for hymns and primary songs. Great app all around for my iPhone.ldpetersen