Can You Guess These Hymns From Their Opening Lyrics?


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Many believe that one of the most effective ways to praise the Lord is through song. Hymns are songs that form a significant part of the praise and worships aspect of some gatherings, particularly those at church. The word 'hymn’ derives from the Greek term "hymnos” which translates to “songs of praise” in English. Hymns are usually sung in worship of a God or a divine being and their structure differentiates them from psalms and spiritual songs. This is because psalms are incorporated into the Holy Bible as a word of God whereas hymns are composed by humans as a means of worship. Hymns are also poems with a meter of, which is in accordance with the ballad stanza.

Many religions have their own variations of hymns, but those in English usually refer to Christianity and are an expression of Christians’ love for Christ. The apostle Paul urged Christians to use hymns as a means of worship. "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,” he said, in Ephesians 5:19.

The unique composition results in the formation of hymns such as “Amazing Grace" by John Newton, "How Great Thou Art" by Carl Gustave Booberg and "Praise to the Lord the Almighty" by Joachim Neander. These timeless hymns are sung in almost every Christian gathering, regardless of the nature of the function, but do you know them?  And can you name them from their opening lyrics? Let's find out.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me

Written by John Newton in 1779, "Amazing Grace" has themes of redemption and forgiveness that make it popular in both religious and secular spaces.


On a hill far away / Stood an old, rugged cross...

This hymn was written by Evangelist George Bennard in 1912, and is a popular country gospel favorite.


Weak and wounded sinner / Lost and left to die / O, raise your head, for love is passing by

This is among the newest songs in our quiz and dates back to 2003. It is written by Chris Rice, who writes contemporary Gospel music and has won the Dove Award, which is the Grammy of Christian music.


What a friend we have in Jesus / all our sins and grieves to bear

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" was written in 1855 by Joseph M. Scriven. Although it has been criticized


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...

Psalm 23 is probably the most famous and has been set to music by a variety of composers. It is a Psalm of David.


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord...

Battle Hymn of the Republic is probably one of the most recognized hymns and has been recorded by everyone from Odetta to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.


Now weave the rich scarlet of organ notes...

The Charterhouse Carol is one of the longest, and notable for its two melodies between two different lengths of verse.


Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven!

This hymn is known as one of the "Marian" hymns, meaning it is about the Virgin Mary.


May he make peace, may he make peace!

Oseh shalom is traditionally sung in repetition, getting faster with each go round! When you get to the end, you should be thoroughly exhausted.


O come, all ye faithful / Joyful and triumphant...

Attributed to various authors, "O Come All Ye Faithful" was originally written and published in Latin. It remains especially popular as a Christmas carol.


Make me a channel of your peace...

This hymn is a prayer written by St. Francis. It was set to music in 1967 by Johann Sebastian von Tempelhoff.


Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power / Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

"Are You Washed in the Blood" is one of the over 2000 hymns written by Presbyterian minister Elisha Hoffman, most of which were written between the years of 1873 and 1922.


Rock of Ages, cleft for me / let me hide myself in Thee

These are the first words sung to the Christian hymn "Rock of Ages" by Reverend Augustus Toplady, which is generally sung in the tune of "Toplady" by Thomas Hastings.


I know that my Redeemer lives...

John Warrington Hatton composed this version of this hymn, which is also known as Jesus Shall Reign.


You shall cross the barren desert...

Be Not Afraid comes from Isaiah 53 and is repeated in part in the Book of Luke. It was set to music by composer Bob Dufford.


Rock of Ages, let our song / Praise your wond'rous saving power...

The Ma'oz Tsur is a Jewish hymn that is traditionally sung during Chanukah. The first line you see here is the English version.


Turn your eyes upon Jesus...

This hymn was written in 1918 by composer and writer Helen Howarth Lemmel.


Had he brought us out of Egypt, and only out of Egypt...

Dayenu is sung at Passover. It's a storytelling hymn in which the acts of God in bringing about the Exodus are listed, and after each one, the chorus means "it would have been sufficient". It's important to thank God for each effort made on behalf of his people.


O Lord open thou our lips

Psalm 51 is a chant, which is a particular kind of hymn characterized in part by a call-and-response or "responsive" hymn where the priest and congregation alternate parts. It's also noted for the flatter melodies.


You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord...

This song was written by Michael Joncas. Unlike many hymns which are named for the first line and do not repeat sections, this one has a refrain with a hook, and is named for that.


Yahweh, I know you are near, standing always at my side...

Dan Schutte wrote lots of hymns and hails from Wisconsin. You Are Near was written in 1971.


Peace unto you, ministering angels...

Giora Feldman has also recorded this one (as he has most Jewish hymns). Shalom Aleichem is a story in the Talmud about how two angels see you safe home from Sabbath prayers. The song thanks them for their services and asks for their continued protection and blessing.


Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blessed, and in our souls take up Thy rest...

This hymn dates from around the 8th Century. While it is less popular these days, it is still sung while a new Pope is being elected.


The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend...

Pat Sczebel is a pastor in Vancouver who is currently writing Christian music in order to bring the word of God to the people. "Jesus, Thank You" remains among his most popular works, dating from 2003.


Bless the Lord oh my soul, / Oh my soul

Matt Redman is a Christian music writer who has a few Dove Awards and also two Grammys. This song was number 1 on the Billboard Christian Music chart. It's from 2011, making it the newest hymn in our quiz.


Why is this night different from all other nights?

The Ma Nishtanah is a song for Passover, in which successive verses explain all the traditions of the night, like eating while reclining - as the free folks did, in celebration of the Hebrews leaving slavery in Egypt. It is sung twice as Passover is celebrated twice, just in case.


Hail true Body, born of the Mary...

Pope Innocent VI wrote the words here and the most famous tune is by Mozart. There is also a chant version, however.


I hear the Savior say, / Thy strength indeed is small...

Hall was inspired to write this hymn while sitting in church. She was part of the choir and the words simply came to her during a service, so she scribbled them down in her hymn book - very fittingly!


Jesus, the very thought of Thee, fills my heart with sweetness...

Jesu Dulcis Memoria is adapted from a poem by St. Bernard. It's no long as popular as it once was.


Let us rejoice! Let us rejoice!

This is one of the most upbeat hymns, which is why is is played at weddings and is amazing fun to dance to.


Praise we Christ’s immortal body...

This hymn was probably written for Corpus Christi, but it has other uses. Like other Catholic hymns here, it's mostly sung as a chant.


Hail, Holy Queen enthroned above, O Maria!

Lines from this hymn feature in the opera "Dialogue of the Carmelites", but it is more famous to non-Catholics and non-opera fans for the jazzed-up version of it featured in "Sister Act," the 1992 movie about a witness to a murder who hides in a convent and takes over their failing choir.


I, the Lord of sea and sky, / I have heard my people cry

This hymn was written by Schutte, a Jesuit, while he was studying theology in Berkeley in 1981. The words derive from portions of the Books of Isaiah and Samuel.


Thou shall sprinkle me, Lord, with hyssop and I shall be cleansed...

Hyssop is a herb with cleansing properties and was actually used in Christian purifying rites around 1,000 years ago. This hymn is adapted from Psalm 50 to honor those rites.


Eternal master, who reigned supreme...

Adon Olam is traditionally sung at the close of the Jewish Sabbath service. It has a couple of different melodies, one of which is incredibly upbeat.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!