Once in a while, a song that had been more or less rejected in my earlier years returns to make impact. For me, this category includes “Rock of Ages,” “In the Hour of Trial” (thanks to Dan Cline who led this during a year of trial when I visited his church in Hixson, TN and who served as an oasis in my desert), and, yesterday, “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”
Nevermind the leaders who lead this song too slowly and who allow it to bog down. Nevermind the fact that fermatas in the tune aren’t really observed–that’s just fine w/me. A blind preacher wrote the words, and you may find them all here, but I’ll highlight just a few.
The call of an “hour of prayer” …
… bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
For me, it’s not that “My soul has often found relief in seasons of distress and grief,” but in the excruciating situations of life, the relief has been provided.
I wonder whether my spiritual downfalls might be lessened — both in frequency and in scope — by the “return” of the “sweet hour of prayer.” The “hour of prayer” is personified in this song, addressed as though it had discretion of its own. It’s not really as though a time of prayer may be called on to return, but poetic license permits the devotee to think of prayer in such a way.
Then, in a less temptation-ridden and burdensome light, the “hour of prayer” may be thought of as replete with spiritual fulfillment.
The joys I feel, the bliss I share,
Of those whose anxious spirits burn
With strong desires for thy return!
Those who believe, those who in their hearts cry marana tha, those who share like precious faith will be the ones with whom I
hasten to the place
Where God my Savior shows His face,
Where Christian faith and the bonds of unity are present, and where relationships grow ever closer, the desire to be together and to pray and study and worship may be expected to grow deeper and more intense. After singing this song once in the morning, I wanted to sing it again in the evening in our home.
And, since my God wants an encounter with me — more than I desire it with Him — and since He invites me to trust, we can surely
. . . cast on Him [my] every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!
~ ~ ~
A fourth stanza was penned by William Walford, and I think I understand why it’s not included in all hymnals:
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
May I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight:
This robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise
To seize the everlasting prize;
And shout, while passing through the air,
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”
The strangeness and lack of “poetic feel” of the word “Pisgah” aside, I like the scenery here, as well as the undergirding idea that, when all is said and done and the saved soul is with the Lord, there is no more need for trust … no more need for prayers — sweet or otherwise — that request anything at all.
Hope will be swallowed up in victory, and need will vanish in the denouement, face to face with God Almighty.