Intercession to the Exalted Christ

Ascension Song Reflections

Why don’t we sing about Jesus’ ascension? I might suggest that the scarcity of songs is not necessarily to blame for our neglect. Perhaps our reluctance to singing the ascension comes in part from a liturgical cost-benefit analysis. If we’re being honest, it’s challenging to dust off, teach, and lead an obscure ascension hymn for just one Sunday. Yet the themes of Christ’s ascension richly permeate the existing canons and repertoires of worshiping communities in songs that can be sung throughout the church year. Indeed, not all ascension songs need to be hymns. A discerning eye and careful ear can identify ascension-related themes throughout the songs of the church, not just those few with the word “ascension” in their lyrics. While certainly not exhaustive, this list provides a launchpad for worship planners and leaders and encouragement to more consciously integrate songs about the ascension into their musical diets.

These “hidden” gems focus on the session of the ascended Christ. “Session” refers to the ascended Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us as “our great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14). Intercession is a decidedly trinitarian act; we offer prayers to God the Father, which are mediated through Jesus Christ and perfected by the power of the Holy Spirit. These songs call us, in Paul’s words, to “set [our] minds on things above,” where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1–2). In our current world situation—one in which we all too often find ourselves calling on God to hear our prayers—it brings immense comfort and hope to know that we serve a resurrected and ascended Lord, incarnate in heaven, who “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).


“See Our King Ascend to Heaven”

I wrote this hymn text after one of my professors pointed out that there was a lack of modern worship texts on Christ’s ascension. It attempts to capture the imaginations of those who experienced this remarkable event, from the disciples who witnessed Jesus ascend “past the planets / toward the stars” to the angels who greeted him “with triumphant, joyous burst.” Each stanza moves through a different theme of the ascension: Christ’s entry to heaven (st. 1), Christ’s accomplished atonement and continued ministry (st. 2), Christ’s priestly intercession (st. 3), and Christ’s return (st. 4). It is a more comprehensive ascension text, to be sure, but the third stanza is especially fitting for this collection of songs as it celebrates “our high priest [who] has no limit; / his intention is to serve.” This hymn recognizes that Jesus’ work on our behalf does not end with the resurrection; he continues his ministry to humanity by interceding for the world.

Liturgical and Musical Suggestions

  • This text’s common meter ( has many familiar matching tunes: BEACH SPRING, HYFRYDOL, HYMN TO JOY, NETTLETON, and EBENEZER, to name a few. Because of the contemplative nature of the text, I recommend BEACH SPRING or NETTLETON as tunes that musically complement the themes of the text.
  • The final stanza is the song’s climax, celebrating Christ’s ultimate return and reign. Build dynamically and establish a strong rhythmic groove. It may even be appropriate to modulate up into this stanza.
  • This song may be an appropriate prelude to establish the context of Ascension Sunday.
  • Instrumentals between stanzas can be interspersed with Scripture readings that follow the narrative logic of the hymn text (perhaps Acts 1 and/or passages from Hebrews).

“See Our King Ascend to Heaven”

  1. See our King ascend to heaven,

    past the planets, toward the stars.

    Radiant the air around him,

    honor his and glory ours.

    Clouds surround him, angels greet him

    with triumphant, joyous burst.

    Into heaven we can enter,

    for our Jesus walked there first.
  2. Jesus’ mission, it is finished!

    Satan’s grip Christ has released.

    But his work beyond continues,

    called upward to be our priest.

    First he rose up from the darkness;

    now he rises past the sun

    from the world which he created.

    See him enter realms above.
  3. Welcomed into his old dwelling,

    seated at the throne’s right side,

    there he sits and waits and listens,

    interceding as our guide.

    Our high priest, he has no limit;

    his intention is to serve.

    So we pray, O Son exalted,

    may you now our souls preserve.
  4. Up we gaze to his traject’ry

    waiting for his next descent,

    but we hear the voice of many

    sent from heaven to proclaim:

    “Jesus, taken into heaven,

    will come back this very way.”

    Now embrace his promised power

    ’til that wond’rous coming day.
  5. Things above we set our vision,

    looking past the everyday.

    Christ in glory, high and mighty

    over all the cosmos reigns.

    As he passes o’er the bound’ry

    earth and heav’n blur their lines.

    Body absent, Spirit present,

    humble us, our lives entwine.

—Benjamin P. Snoek © 2019. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

CCLI # pending.


“How Lovely Your Grace”

This lesser-known contemporary song by Micah Kersh was written for a songwriting competition hosted by worship publisher PraiseCharts. Its lyrics are rooted in the biblical witness to Christ’s ascension and session, and touch on themes from Hebrews 4:16 that invite us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.” With a singable, lilting melody, the musical conventions of this ballad should be familiar to most worship leaders. This song is a fitting invitation to prayer, calling worshipers to draw near to the ascended Christ with confidence that he hears our cries. Although at times it seems as if this song blurs the lines between Christ’s crucifixion and Christ’s session, it does offer an important connection between the priestly work of atonement and the priestly work of intercession. Borrowing the words of a familiar hymn, the chorus declares that Christ’s priestly work is nothing short of an act of “grace that is greater”—a necessary reminder for a world that can too easily take prayer for granted.

Liturgical and Musical Suggestions

  • After singing verse 1 (“I come, Lord, and speak to you with confidence now”), invite someone to lead a prayer of confession with the musicians vamping on the chord progression. The chorus (“Grace, / grace that is greater”) would provide a strong moment for a sung assurance.
  • Use the chorus as a sung refrain between prompts in a pastoral prayer.
  • Consider adjusting the chord progression in the verses into the relative minor (Em – D – Am7 – Bm7) to contrast with the brilliance of the major key chorus.
  • This song lends itself best to a stripped-back acoustic instrumentation. It could be performed using only an acoustic guitar, piano, and cajon/djembe.


“Our Great High Priest Is Sitting”

This text by Lord Adelbert Percy Cecil, a British evangelist, author, and missionary to Canada, is published in only three hymnals. It is a beautiful hymn celebrating Christ’s session and ongoing ministry of intercession. Drawing heavily from biblical imagery, this hymn is a song of comfort, declaring that “Christ’s mighty intercession / alone is my resource.” Its warm tone reminds me of the Heidelberg Catechism, which declares that Jesus’ ascension benefits us because “he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his father” (Q&A 49). The third stanza assumes a comprehensive view of Christ’s atoning work: “Our God’s most gracious favor / did give his Son to die, / to live our Intercessor, / to plead for us on high.” It is far too easy to deride evangelical worship of overemphasizing the cross of Christ in its lyrics; at the same time, we can become just as liturgically myopic on high days such as Ascension Sunday, viewing the ascension as a “pop-up” moment without context.

Liturgical and Musical Suggestions

  • There is no need to introduce a new melody just because the text is unfamiliar. Although it is likely that a congregation has not engaged with this text, there are many familiar tunes that match its meter (, such as ST. THEODULPH, AURELIA , and HANKEY. It was previously published with the tune MEIRONYDD with a suggested alternate tune MUNICH.
  • Because the meters match, you can adapt the Norton Hall Band’s existing arrangement of “The Church’s One Foundation” (using the AURELIA tune) or use Indelible Grace’s retuned arrangement.
  • This hymn would be appropriate as either a preparation song or a response song; perhaps it could even be woven throughout the service (for instance, singing the first stanza after a Scripture reading and prayer of illumination and singing the second and third stanzas after a sermon and pastoral prayer).

“Our Great High Priest is Sitting”

  1. Our great High Priest is sitting

    at God’s right hand above,

    for us his hands uplifting

    in sympathy and love,

    while here below in weakness

    we onward speed our way;

    in sorrow and in sickness,

    we sigh and groan and pray.
  2. Through manifold temptation

    my soul holds on its course;

    Christ’s mighty intercession

    alone is my resource.

    My gracious High Priest’s pleadings,

    who on the cross did bleed,

    bring down God’s grace and blessings,

    help in our hour of need.
  3. Our God’s most gracious favor

    did give his Son to die,

    to live our Intercessor,

    to plead for us on high.

    O Jesus, blessed Savior,

    who soon for us will come,

    redemption’s work completed,

    our battle fought, and won.

—A. P. Cecil, 1841–1889 P.D.; alt.


“Come Holy Spirit (Uthando) / We Will Worship”

This song was released by We Will Worship, a South African music collective, and is dear to our chapel community at Trinity Christian College. The simple verse calls on the Holy Spirit to be present among a gathered community. I am particularly drawn to the chorus, which repeats the words of the pre-chorus in Zulu, the language of the largest Indigenous group in South Africa:

Uthando, uthando; lwakho lwakho

(Your love)

Luyaphila, luyaphila

(Is alive)

Umbuso, umbuso; wakho, wakho

(Your kingdom)

Uyaphila, uyaphila

(Is alive)

At first glance it might seem that this song is only distantly related to the themes of this article. Among our prayers to the ascended Christ, however, are prayers of invocation, those that call on God to send the Spirit in our times of need. Because God’s “love is alive” and his “kingdom is alive,” Christ is still actively working in the world by the power of the Spirit—the power that helps us “seek the things above” (Colossians 3:1). Moreover, this song reminds us that Christ’s ascension in Acts 1 sets the stage for the Spirit’s descent on Pentecost in Acts 2, fulfilling Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit (Acts 1:5–8).

Liturgical and Musical Suggestions

  • It can be challenging to introduce worship songs with foreign lyrics. I recommend first teaching the pronunciation of the Zulu words in the chorus and then including English translations (in smaller text and/or parentheses) in the printed or projected lyrics.
  • This song would fit in the opening of a worship service as a sung invocation or a call to worship.
  • This performance works well with a strong yet stable drive from the percussion—a low tom groove is sufficient. The bass line should have limited ornamentation to support the rhythm section.
  • Because it is simple and repetitive, this song is relatively easy to learn, teach, and sing, and is accessible even for intergenerational worship. Consider incorporating this song into the canon of your children’s ministry and youth ministry. Since Ascension Sunday often falls during the early summer months, commit to teaching this song during Vacation Bible School at the same time as it is introduced in a main worship service.
  • It would be appropriate to introduce this song on Ascension Sunday and then to reintegrate it on Pentecost Sunday (particularly the Zulu chorus, which could be used with the idea of “tongues of fire”).
Reformed Worship 143 © March 2022, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.