4 Christmas Carols That Prompt Us to Pray

How to put a prayer—and a song—in your heart this season!

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Posted in , Dec 11, 2020

Christmas carols as prayers

Among the delights of the Christmas season is the music. On the radio, in businesses, at home and at church we hear the sounds of silver bells, herald angels singing and yuletide carols being sung by a choir. Everyone has a favorite, but many miss the beautiful and timely prompts to prayer offered by some Christmas carols.

Whether you’re driving, shopping, working or waiting, here are a few Christmas songs that are prayers—or lend themselves to prayer:

1)  “Away in a Manger”

The last verse of this familiar carol is a sweet prayer for children of all ages:

Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And take us to heaven to live with Thee there.

2)  “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Phillips Brooks’s enduring classic is another carol that turns to prayer (in the fourth stanza):

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel!

3)  “In the Bleak Midwinter”

This Christina Rossetti poem, set to music, is one of my favorites. I like to turn the tender final verse into a prayer by changing the pronoun Him to You:

What can I give You,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give You,
Give my heart.

4)  “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Every verse of this ancient carol is a prayer (in fact, the verses follow the pattern of the “O Antiphons,” prayed or sung during Vespers in the last seven days of Advent in some liturgical Christian traditions). The last stanza (“O Rex Gentium” in Latin; “O King of Nations” in English) is a fitting climax:  

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace.

These are just four carols, of course, but they’re the ones I pray most often and fervently during this holiday season. They not only put a song in my heart, but a prayer as well, and that makes my Christmas celebration all the more meaningful.

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