Now Do We Pray unto the Holy Ghost

Tune: Nun bitten wir

Download: Booklet

  1. Now do we pray unto the Holy Ghost
    For the true faith of all things the most,
    That He may defend us when life is ending,
    As from exile home we are wending.

  2. Thou precious Light, be Thou within us shone,
    Teach us Jesus Christ to know alone,
    That we may abide in the Lord who bought us,
    Who to our true homeland hath brought us.

  3. Thou sweetest Love, Thy favor to us grant,
    Give to us Thy love’s bright burning brand,
    That with hearts united we love each other,
    Of one mind, at peace with each brother.

  4. Thou highest Comforter in ev’ry need,
    Help us of our death be unafraid,
    That e’en then our courage may never fail us,
    When the Foe at last shall assail us.

Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist
St. 1, Anon., 13th c.
Sts. 2–4, Martin Luther, 1524
Tr. composite

German Text

Tune: Nun bitten wir

  1. Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist
    Um den rechten Glauben allermeist,
    Daß er uns behüte an unserm Ende,
    Wenn wir heimfahrn aus diesem Elende.

  2. Du wertes Licht, gib uns deinen Schein,
    Lehr uns Jesum Christ kennen allein,
    Daß wir an ihm bleiben, dem treuen Heiland,
    Der uns bracht hat zum rechten Vaterland.

  3. Du süße Lieb, schenk uns deine Gunst,
    Laß uns empfinden der Liebe Brunst,
    Daß wir uns von Herzen einander lieben
    Und im Friede auf einem Sinn bleiben.

  4. Du höchster Tröster in aller Not,
    Hilf, daß wir nicht fürchten Schand noch Tod,
    Daß in uns die Sinne nicht verzagen,
    Wenn der Feind wird das Leben verklagen.

St. 1, Anon., 13th c.
Sts. 2–4, Martin Luther, 1524
Source: C.F.W. Walther’s Kirchen-Gesangbuch, 1898 printing


Available Recordings
  • The Vocal Concert Dresden performs stanzas 1–3, with stanzas 2–3 in a setting by Michael Praetorius, on their album Lob, Ehr und Preis sei Gott: Die schönsten deutschen Kirchenlieder, track 10 (iTunesAmazonMP3).
  • Johann Walter’s 1524 setting is performed by a number of artists. Among the best renderings is that by the Himlische Cantorey on their album Music of the Reformation, tracks 1–4 (iTunesAmazonMP3).


Martin Luther

Martin Luther, 1483–1546, portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1533

Author: Martin Luther
Source: Johann Walter, Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, Wittenberg, 1524, No. 1

The first stanza of “Now Do We Pray unto the Holy Ghost (Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist)” was already an established hymn long before the Reformation. It fell into that class of popular vernacular hymns known as “Leise,” named for the concluding “Kyrieleis,” an abbreviated form of “Kyrie eleison.” Luther prized the hymn highly and in 1524 furnished a further three stanzas, each beginning with a different appellation for the Holy Ghost. The complete hymn of four stanzas first appeared in a polyphonic setting by Johann Walter in his Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, Wittenberg, 1524, No. 1. The hymn was originally intended for Pentecost, but its placement at the opening of Walter’s choir book suggests that it was intended as a regular hymn of invocation of the Holy Ghost.

Nun bitten wir original
“Now Do We Pray unto the Holy Ghost (Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist)” as it first appeared in Johann Walter’s Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, Wittenberg, 1524, courtesy of the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

The hymn appears in English translation in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book, 1930, No. 260, The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, No. 231, and the Lutheran Service Book, 2006, No. 768. Each translation differs significantly from the others. For the Free Lutheran Chorale-Book, we have taken the version in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book as our starting point, then incorporated elements from other sources. The meter had to be adjusted through the removal and addition of slurs in the melody, but has been otherwise left intact. The result, it is to be hoped, is easily sung and well reflects the German original. The music is a composite of different sources.

Both text and music may be freely used and reproduced for any purpose whatever, and are offered with the prayer that they may serve for the edification of Christian people everywhere.

Further Reading