Hymns of Lent and their Story

February 23, 2023

“O Lord, Throughout These Forty Days”

When asked for a reason why Claudia Frances Hernamen[1838-98] wrote this hymn, she stated that children needed hymns that teach and confess that faith in concrete language.  This conviction led her to write 150 original hymns and translations from the Latin primarily for use by children.  We have the hymn “O Lord, throughout these 40 days” as a paraphrase written by Gilbert Doan [b. 1930].  
Lent is a time of repentance for sin, and renewal by the grace of Christ through absolution and catechesis.  The forty days of Lent are patterned after our Lord’s forty-day fast in the wilderness.  During it, He was tempted by the devil but remained steadfast to His Father toward our salvation.  This was written in the form of a prayer to our Savior for renewal and repentance.
In vs. 1, the baptized faithful ask the Lord for true repentance and freedom from their past sins.  This repentance is effected by the Word of God’s Law and it’s condemnation of all who fail to keep it perfectly.  As the total turning to God in humble faith and confident trust, repentance is inspired by the Word of God’s grace in Jesus.  Out of love for the Father and for us poor sinners, Jesus did not waver in His Father’s will to save, but denied Himself and commended Himself to the Father in prayer throughout His earthly fast.
On the basis of Jesus’ victory over Satan, we ask our Lord in vs. 2 to “lend us” His “nerve” and His “skill and trust in God’s eternal Word.”   Satan’s attacks are always an attempt for us to leave behind God’s Word, of that there can be no doubt.  With out Christ, we simply have no strength with which to fight off the devil’s attacks.  At the heart of Jesus’ victory was His own trust in God’s Word.  
Jesus’ own words, “if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” [Luke 9:23] are the basis for vs. 3 and a major theme of Lent.  The prayer for self-denial rests upon God’s selfless and sacrificial love in preaching, absolution and the Lord’s Supper.  
“The final Easter” of vs. 4 alludes to the fact that the entire life of the Christian is one of repentance and renewal of life by the word of God.  It is precisely because our Lord Jesus stands with us is our earthly fast, calling us to repentance, and forgiving our sins, that we are able to complete our earthly sojourn in the full confidence of our resurrection to eternal life. 

O Lord, throughout these forty days You prayed and kept the fast;
Inspire repentance for our sin, and free us from our past.

LSB 418

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