In the Midst of Life We Are in Death

In the midst of life we are in death.
To whom may we look for help,
but from you, Lord,
who for our sins
are justly displeased?

Yet, Lord God most holy,
Lord most mighty,
holy and most merciful Savior,
deliver us from the bitter pains of eternal death.

[Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts.
Do not shut your merciful ears to our prayers,
but spare us,
Lord most holy,
God most mighty,
holy and most merciful Savior,
most worthy Judge eternal.
In our last hour,
do not let us
fall away from you
because of the pains of death.]

Source: Attributed to Notker the Stammerer, battle song from the year A. D. 912, based on the English translation in the Book of Common Prayer.

Bracketed portion seems to be a later addition included in the Book of Common Prayer. See the variants below. Luther’s hymn seems to reflect the repetition.

Most versions render the last line, “deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.”

Original in Latin:

Media vita in morte sumus
quem quaerimus adjutorem
nisi te, Domine,
qui pro peccatis nostris
juste irasceris?

Sancte Deus,
sancte fortis,
sancte et misericors Salvator:
amarae morti ne tradas nos.

Variant 1

In Te speraverunt Patres nostri,
speraverunt et liberasti eos.
Ad Te clamaverunt Patres nostri,
clamaverunt et non sunt confusi.

Sancte Deus, Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

In you our fathers trusted.
They trusted and you delivered them.
They cried out to you, and they were rescued.
They cried out to you, and they were not disappointed. (from Psalm 22:4-5)

O holy God, glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.

Variant 2

Ne projicias nos in tempore senectutis
cum defecerit virtus nostra ne derelinquas nos Domine.

Sancte Deus, Sancte fortis,
Sancte et misericors Salvator,

Amarae morti ne tradas nos.

Noli claudere aures tuas ad preces nostras.
Sancte fortis, Sancte et misericors Salvator,
Amarae morti ne tradas nos.

Qui cognoscis occulta cordis parce peccatis nostris.
Sancte et misericors Salvator,
Amarae morti ne tradas nos.

Do not cast us off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake us when our strength fails, Lord. (from Psalm 71:9)
Lord God most holy, Lord most mighty,
holy and most merciful Savior,
deliver us from the bitter pains of eternal death.

Do not shut your merciful ears to our prayers,
God most mighty, holy and most merciful Savior,
deliver us from the bitter pains of eternal death.

Lord, you  know the secrets of our hearts. (from Psalm 44:21)
Holy and most merciful Savior,
deliver us from the bitter pains of eternal death.

Book of Common Prayer 1559 text in traditional English:

In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?
Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.

Martin Luther expanded this prayer into a hymn, Mitten wir in leben sind.

1. In the midst of earthly life
Snares of death surround us;
Who shall help us in the strife
Lest the Foe confound us?
Thou only, Lord, Thou only.
We mourn that we have greatly erred,
That our sins Thy wrath have stirred.
Holy and righteous God!
Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all-merciful Savior!
Eternal Lord God!
Save us lest we perish
In the bitter pangs of death.
Have mercy, O Lord!

2. In the midst of death’s dark vale
Powers of hell o’ertake us.
Who will help when they assail,
Who secure will make us?
Thou only, Lord, Thou only.
Thy heart is moved with tenderness,
Pities us in our distress.
Holy and righteous God!
Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all-merciful Savior!
Eternal Lord God!
Save us lest we perish
In the bitter pangs of death.
Have mercy, O Lord!

3. In the midst of utter woe
All our sins oppress us,
Where shall we for refuge go,
Where for grace to bless us?
To Thee, Lord Jesus, only.
Thy precious blood was shed to win
Full atonement for our sin.
Holy and righteous God!
Holy and mighty God!
Holy and all-merciful Savior!
Eternal Lord God!
Save us lest we perish
In the bitter pangs of death.
Have mercy, O Lord!

This prayer has its own page on Wikipedia.

prayer for the dead in middle ages

prayers for the dead

Published by

pastorstratman

Lutheran pastor and musician serving St. Stephen's in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

6 thoughts on “In the Midst of Life We Are in Death”

    1. This is not a quote of a specific verse in Scripture. However, it does reflect several portions of Scripture: pleas for help as in Psalm 7. Anger over sin is similar to Isaiah 13:9. Deliverance from death is similar to Psalm 33:19. “Lord most mighty, holy and most merciful God” is similar to God’s declaration of his name in Exodus 34:6.

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