#144 Secret Prayer




Secret Prayer lends itself to a simple yet inspiringly warm harmonic treatment of a lovely hymn of prayer. The chordal progression of the original hymn lends itself to smooth voice leading. In the chorus there is space based on the pace of harmonic movement for some tasteful melodic embellishment.

It is found in the LDS hymnal on page 144.

For additional hymn harmonizations based on hymns with the topic of prayer, explore the following: #140 Did You Think to Pray? and #142 Sweet Hour of Prayer

Hans Henry Petersen (1835-1909), composer of both the hymn text and music, was born in Slagelse, Denmark, hence the tune name of this hymn. He was raised as a Lutheran but joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his father in June of 1853.  He served as a missionary in Denmark and was later branch president in Svenstrup and district president in Copenhagen.

In 1862, Hans emigrated to America with his parents and five siblings. After reaching New York and then Nebraska, the Petersens became part of a wagon company traveling to Utah.  He eventually settled in Hyrum, Utah. There he became the stake choir director.  It was in that calling that he composed his most famous hymn, “Secret Prayer.”  This hymn demonstrates the Latter-day Saint attitude to prayer; that it is a very personal conversation with our Heavenly Father. In personal, secret prayer Latter-day saints create their own heartfelt prayers rather than using previously scripted prayers. Through the text of this hymn Peterson conveys that prayer can help solve the problems of life… the “billows of despair” or “the pathway strewn with snares.”

This hymn has many of the characteristics of the American gospel song: the verse/chorus division, the dotted rhythms, the energy, and the answering harmony of the chorus.  In fact, it is this answering harmony of the chorus that makes “Secret Prayer” still relevant in modern hymnody.