'Sweet Hour of Prayer'
When the disciples saw Jesus in prayer, they asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) From that glorious question in Scripture, we have what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. Millions have repeated those words, and it is one of our greatest examples of calling out to God.
In the Psalms we read of other needs for help with our prayers. Author, Denise Loock writes in her book, “Open Your Hymnal:” “The writer of Psalm 5 displayed a similar mixture of humility and boldness when he prayed, ‘Give ear to my word, oh Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.’ Yet, the psalmist did not sink into despair. His confidence is evident in the next verse, ‘I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.’ He was distraught but still hopeful.” (Verses 1-3).
So I believe prayer is a mystery, and a very exciting one. The hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” provides us a way to sing about the call on our Christian lives to reach out and trust that God is listening.
“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! that calls me from a world of care, and bids me at my Father’s throne make all my wants and wishes known.”
There is another mystery about this hymn. Who was the composer? In most hymnals we read the name, William Walford. Was he a blind shopkeeper in the village of Coleshill, Warwickshire, England? Did he ask his friend, Thomas Solomon, to write down a poem that was forming in his mind?
Or was he a clergyman in that town who gave a copy of his beautifully written poem to Solomon? We may never know, but we are sure that the Rev. Solomon, a visiting minister in a Warwickshire church in 1842, returned to America with a special poem, “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” He had it printed in the New York Observer on Sept. 13, 1845.
An outstanding musician of the day, William Bradbury was touched by its message and he said,
”A poem that teaches the value and necessity of prayer is very important,” he said. He composed a melody that became the wings that have carried it out into the world. It was first published in Bradbury’s hymnal, “The Golden Chain,” in 1861.
A few other special tunes he wrote accompany the words for: “Just As I Am,” “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us” and “Jesus Loves Me.”
Usually when we sing a message that has been written, it flows easily. Even humming the tune can fill us with precious memories. But we must never forget the words that encourage our Christian walk
In the concluding verse, we joyfully sing: “And since he bids me seek his face, believe his word, and trust his grace, I’ll cast on him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!”