During the Thirty Years' War, how did the Swedish soldiers (for instance, the pike-men) pray to get mentally relaxed or to feel more powerful or to get prepared before a battle?

Which prayers did they used to say?

  • Great! I am looking forward to answers, it's an interesting question. (There may be some folks at Christianity.SE (who also participate here) who may have further insights. I'll mention it in chat there. ) Feb 10, 2017 at 13:57

1 Answer 1


Swedish army

I have one word for you in this case: hymns.

Religion and prayer were very systematically organized in the Swedish army:

[Gustavus Adolphus] led troops in singing hymns as they marched to war, ordered prayers twice daily by the whole army, and assigned pastors to every regiment. This blend of prayer and black powder made the Swedish army feared and respected. It also gave Swedish troops unusual discipline and character on the battlefield. Source

Here is how the spiritual preparation for a battle looked like:

On the morning of November 6, 1632, the two armies faced each other in battle array. Dr. Fabricius, chaplain of the Swedish army, had been commanded by Gustavus to lead his troops in worship. The king himself raised the strains of “Be not dismayed, thou little flock,” and led the army in singing the stirring hymn. Then he knelt in fervent prayer.

A heavy fog prevented the Protestant forces from moving forward to the attack, and, while they were waiting for the fog to lift, Gustavus ordered the musicians to play Luther’s hymn, “A mighty Fortress is our God.” The whole army joined with a shout. The king then mounted his charger, and, drawing his sword, rode back and forth in front of the lines, speaking words of encouragement to his men.

As the sun began to break through the fog, Gustavus himself offered a prayer, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help me today to do battle for the glory of Thy holy name,” and then shouted, “Now forward to the attack in the name of our God!” The army answered, “God with us!” and rushed forward, the king galloping in the lead. Source

Other protestant armies

I am not sure that most other armies were as systematic or devout as the Swedish one. For one thing, the Swedish army was (at least, in the beginning of its participation in the war) a cohesive national force which shared a common language. Other forces, such as those of Mansfeld or of Saxe-Weimar were composed largely of mercenaries and were less likely to have common religious ground or too care much for it. The Dutch, the English volunteers/"volunteers", the Palatinate troops, the Bohemians, and the Danish present cases I cannot even venture guesses about. (Perhaps I have forgotten a participating group/nation, apologies).

I'll try to update.

  • 2
    I agree with most of the answer, but the part about "national force" and "shared language" is wrong. The Swedish army, throughout the war, consisted to a large part of mercenaries - mainly German, Scottish and English. Swedish soldiers were IIRC primarily used for garrison duties. Furthermore, a large part of the Swedish soldiers were Finns.
    – andejons
    Feb 10, 2017 at 16:38

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