Out of the Depths I Cry to You

Mar 2020    

We are now in the season of Lent: a time of penitence and self-reflection; a time when we realise the depth of God’s love and mercy; a time to ponder upon its implication on us and how we live.

Here is a hymn we may sing for our reflection as we enter our Lenten journey. It is based on Psalm 130, a profound text that is used as a prayer during times of devastation and contemplation.

We hear the cry of the singer who acknowledges his rebellion and sinfulness. He humbles himself and admits that without God, he is nothing. He therefore appeals to God for mercy and grace.

Even as the singer pleads for mercy, he sings of God’s goodness. With confidence, he declares that God is our stronghold; our Saviour to whom we can entrust our lives; our God without whom our work will be in vain.

The singer recognises his human limitations, and therefore puts his hope in God. He submits himself and knows that he can rely on God’s Word, and claims the promise of the Holy Spirit—that with and by the Holy Spirit he will be kept strong and sure.

The final stanza resounds with eschatological hope. The singer hangs on because he knows that Jesus Christ will come again, and he “praise[s] God for endless mercy”.

This hymn, said to have been composed by Martin Luther in 1523, was one of his first hymns that he introduced to his congregation at Wittenberg. Translated into English in 1535, it has long been associated with funeral and memorial services, including Luther’s.


Out of the depths I cry to you;
O Lord, now hear me calling.
Incline your ear to my distress
in spite of my rebelling.
Do not regard my sinful deeds.
Send me the grace my spirit needs;
without it I am nothing.

All things you send are full of grace;
you crown our lives with favour.
All our good works are done in vain
without our Lord and Saviour.
We praise the God who gives us faith
and saves us from the grip of death;
our lives are in God’s keeping.

It is in God that we shall hope,
and not in our own merit;
we rest our fears in God’s good Word
and trust the Holy Spirit,
whose promise keeps us strong and sure;
we trust the holy signature
inscribed upon our temples.

My soul is waiting for the Lord
as one who longs for morning;
no watcher waits with greater hope
than I for Christ’s returning.
I hope as Israel in the Lord,
who sends redemption through the Word.
Praise God for endless mercy.

Text: Martin Luther, 1524; trans. by Gracia Grindal (Ps 130; 120:1–2)
Music: Attr. to Martin Luther, 1524

Judith Laoyan-Mosomos is the Director for Worship and Church Music at the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.

Picture by shutterstock.com


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