Lord, I Want to Be a Christian

Full Text

1 Lord, I want to be a Christian
in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.

2 Lord, I want to be more loving
in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.

3 Lord, I want to be more holy
in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart.

4 Lord, I want to be like Jesus
in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.

Psalter Hymnal, (Gray)

Notes

Scripture References:
st. 2 = 1 Thess. 3:12

In Negro Slave Songs in the United States (1953), Miles Mark Fisher suggests that this African American spiritual could well have originated in Virginia in the 1750s, based on this story from Hanover, Virginia, 1756: "A black slave asked Presbyterian preacher William Davies, 'I come to you, sir, that you may tell me some good things concerning Jesus Christ and my duty to God, for I am resolved not to live any more as I have done. . . Lord [Sir], I want to be a Christian.'" Apparently the story fits well with the ministry style of Davies in Virginia between 1748 and 1759.

Stanza 1 is a prayer expressing the initial desire to become a Christian; the others are prayers for growth in Christian character: to be more loving (st. 2), to be more holy (st. 3), and to be like Jesus (st. 4).

Liturgical Use:
As a hymn of response to hearing the Word of the Lord–the Word that calls for commitment to become a Christian and challenges all of us to mature in our walk with God: stanzas 2 through 4 can be used separately in the service of confession and forgiveness. Use the entire song as a hymn of encouragement or invitation in evangelistic services.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

I WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN

Both text and tune were first published in Folk Songs of the American Negro (1907), compiled by brothers Frederick Work and John W. Work, Jr. (PHH 476). This music is an example of the slow, sustained, long-phrased tune found in a number of African American spirituals. In the manner of many such spi…

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Timeline

Media

Baptist Hymnal 1991 #489
The Cyber Hymnal #4088
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #264
Worship and Rejoice #457

Instances

Instances (22)TextImageAudioScoreFlexscore
African American Heritage Hymnal #463Image
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #489TextImageAudioScore
Baptist Hymnal 2008 #536TextImageFlexscore
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #507Image
Chalice Hymnal #589Text
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #729TextImageAudioFlexscore
Hymns of Faith #342TextImage
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #387
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: an African American hymnal #138Text
Presbyterian Hymnal: hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs #372TextImage
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #264TextImageAudioScore
Renew! #145TextImage
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #319
Songs for Life #40Text
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #345
The Cyber Hymnal #4088TextAudioScore
The New Century Hymnal #454Image
The United Methodist Hymnal #401Image
The United Methodist Hymnal #402TextImage
The Worshiping Church #563TextImageFlexscore
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #530TextImageFlexscore
Worship and Rejoice #457TextImageAudioScore