Top Ten Songs for Lent

Four pastors and church musicians list their top songs for Lent. You can find most of these songs on Hymnary.org or YouTube.

Carlos ColonCarlos Colón: Baylor University coordinator of worship initiatives
Current city: Waco, Texas
Denominational context: Baptist
Worship roles: Assists the chapel director, leads some chapels, organizes Ash Wednesday and Stations of the Cross services and all worship services that happen outside chapel. He leads worship once every two months at his church.

Top 10 Lent songs:

  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts
  • Great God and Lord of the Earth, John Bell
  • Lord Have Mercy/Kyrie Eleison, such as Russian Orthodox and other settings
  • Lord, Your Cross, We Adore and Glorify (Crucem Tuam Adoramus), Taizé Community
  • Jesus, Remember Me, Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • Stay with Me, Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • Nothing Can Trouble/Nada te Turbe, Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • Pies Divinos, Alfredo Colom
  • Manos Cariñosas, Manos de Jesus, Alfredo Colom
  • Tenemos Esperanza/We Have Hope, Federico J. Pagura

I attend a Baptist church that follows the church calendar. Most Baptist churches in our area do not. A lot of Baylor students aren’t familiar with the concept of Lent or its richness around the world. The challenge is to make Lent user-friendly for Baptists—without denying the sensuousness and depth of great Lenten traditions. To find Lent songs, you can search in a hymnal topic index for confession, forgiveness and repentance. Also, many Hispanic hymns focus on Jesus’ body and are very powerful Lenten hymns.

Go-to resources: Himnario Bautista (Mundo Hispano); Celebremos su Gloria (Libros Alianza); Psalms for All Seasons

Elizabeth VanderHaagenElizabeth Vander Haagen: Boston Square Christian Reformed Church co-pastor
Current city: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Denominational context: Christian Reformed Church in North America
Worship roles: Plans and leads Sunday worship; co-author with Lora Copley of the forthcoming Come to Me: a Family Prayer Book.

Top 10 Lent songs:

  • Take, O Take Me As I Am, John Bell
  • Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer, Keith Getty & Margaret Becker
  • We Are People on a Journey, Gregg DeMey
  • Bless the Lord, My Soul, Robert Batastini and Taizé Community
  • Lord, Have Mercy, Steve Merkel
  • Jesus, Remember Me, Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • Christ, the Lamb of God, public domain, CHRISTE, DU LAMM GOTTES
  • I Want Jesus to Walk with Me, public domain, African American spiritual
  • How He Loves You and Me, Kurt Kaiser
  • Now Behold the Lamb, Kirk Franklin

I pray and try to listen carefully to the Spirit about which songs would be helpful for folks to carry in their hearts for a season or a Sunday. We do seasonal liturgies, so we have three songs that we’ll sing every Sunday for the season. We choose the other three or four songs each Sunday according to the sermon text. One Lenten season we focused on the book of Mark, which we began in Epiphany. For another Lent, we focused on Passion Week from the book of John. We got permission from Faith Alive Christian Resources to create a prayer book based on Seeking God’s Face. We used construction paper to make simple symbols from John’s gospel—like kernels of wheat, Mary pouring perfume and footprints. We paired a Lenten series on Job with a small group Bible study, and we made a new worship banner.

Go-to resource:Lenten Series on the Book of Job” by Thea Leunk and Esther Alsum, Reformed Worship

Gregg DeMeyGregg DeMey: Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church associate pastor and director of worship
Current city: Elmhurst, Illinois
Denominational context: Christian Reformed Church in North America
Worship roles: Plans and leads Sunday worship and music.

Top 10 Lent songs:

  • Will You Come and Follow Me (The Summons), John Bell
  • The Power of the Cross (Oh to See the Dawn), Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
  • We Are People on a Journey, Gregg DeMey
  • Glorious Day, Todd Agnew
  • Jesus Set His Face, Gregg DeMey
  • All Are Welcome, Marty Haugen
  • Christ Is Risen, Matt Maher
  • Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days, Claudia F. Hernaman, MORNING SONG
  • Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery, Marty Haugen
  • Lord, Have Mercy, Steve Merkel

I’m a big picture person. Three or four months before entering a new season, we gather 15 to 20 volunteer worship planners to reflect on the Bible or lectionary passages we’ll be landing on. By far our favorite Lent songs are more narrative or journey kind of songs. Often our Lenten themes are more personally than communally focused. Sometimes we’ve paired this with an Elmhurst-to-Jerusalem virtual journey. If 150 of us walk a half-mile a day, we’ll get to 7,000 miles. We offer a daily verse or phrase for people to meditate on as they walk.

Go-to resource: Matt Maher Music

Nicole AshwoodNicole Ashwood: Caribbean and North America Council for Mission education in mission secretary
Current city: Kingston, Jamaica
Denominational context: United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands
Worship roles: Plans worship for international, national and regional events. As an ordained pastor, she works with the worship team in her home congregation.

Top 10 (11) Lent songs:

  • Come Thou Fount, Robert Robinson
  • Draw Me Close to You, Kelly Carpenter
  • Draw Me Nearer, Fanny Crosby
  • Be Magnified, Lyn DeShazo
  • Halle, Halle Hallelujah (Caribbean Hallelujah, words adapted by Nicqui Ashwood, 2013)
  • Ancient Words, Michael W. Smith
  • Lord’s Prayer (Kum-ba-ya version), James E. Sneddon
  • Grace Greater than All Our Sin, Julia H. Johnston
  • Shout to the North and the South, Robin Mark
  • Enter into Jerusalem, Father Richard Ho Lung
  • In Christ Alone, Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

For Lent, I am very conscious of the Christian’s deep-rooted desire to reflect on the spiritual life and Christ’s journey to the cross. Many Caribbean churches opt for a season of reflections around a given theme, and this is intensified (or enacted) in Holy Week. Sometimes there’s a particular theme song around which everything else is built. We don’t repeat other Lent songs much, as the worship team’s repertoire is expected to be wide enough to find contemporary songs or choruses to supplement the theme song. One Lent, we opted for the theme “Tarry…until I come.” The disciples were asked not just to wait, but to watch and work while waiting until Christ returned from the task of intercession. We can examine our own lives to see whether, like the disciples, we are caught napping while we are supposed to be making intercession for others and living for Christ in the here and now.

Go-to resource: World Communion of Reformed Churches

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