How Great Thou Art – Carl Gustav Boberg (1885, Sweden)
Did Carl Boberg write the words to this hymn during a time when he felt blessed or during a time of trial and anxiety?
O 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.
1 Chronicles 29:10-13 (David’s Prayer) 10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
Carl Boberg was a sailor and left his job to become a lay-minister in the Lutheran Church of Sweden. In 1885, after hearing the sound of church bells ringing during either a thunderstorm or funeral service, he wrote the words to “O Great God”.
At first, his nine-verse poem was not very popular. In 1890, someone published his poem in the paper with a Swedish melody. During the Great Depression decade of the 1930s, Stuart Hine, an English missionary, heard the song in Russian while in Poland and brought it back with him to England. In the 1950s the hymn became very popular through the Billy Graham crusades and has continued as one of the top five most popular hymns in the world.
“Martin Luther saw prayer as crucial to human life, a life created by the relationship to God. In this relationship God starts a conversation, communicating God’s words of law and promise. Prayer is a part of the human response to God’s speaking, a response itself shaped by the words of command and promise. Luther thought that God’s promise to hear prayer defines both the nature of God and the nature of the human relationship to God, as well as the human approach to life. Luther’s comments and instructions on prayer permeated his work. Luther sought to build an evangelical prayer practice that reflected the key insights of his theology: just as God redeems the unworthy human, so God promises to hear and respond to the one praying, despite his or her unworthiness. Humans respond to God’s actions in law and promise when they pray regularly, forthrightly, honestly, and frequently. Freedom in Christ sets humans free to use prayer practices that help them to do this.” (Mary Jane Haemig)