German: Wie schön's ist’s doch, wenn im Gebet
Norwegian: O bønnestund, du bringer meg
Swedish: O bönestund, så skön och dyr
Text: W. W. Walford? (1845--- ). Tune: William Bradbury (1816-1868)
1 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! In seasons of distress and grief My soul has often found relief, And oft escaped the tempter's snare By thy return, sweet hour of prayer. 2 Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, Thy wings shall my petition bear To him whose truth and faithfulness Engage the waiting soul to bless; And since he bids me seek his face, Believe his word and trust his grace, I'll cast on him my ev'ry care, And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer. 3 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!"
We could hear the swishing of cars going north through the rain on Highway 99 just outside the church in Salem. Wednesday night Bible study and prayer meeting time. We were ending, as usual, with what they called a brief season of prayer. Most of the people there, excepting my parents, and a couple others, could all have been my grandparents. No one my age. As the cars rushed by, the silence would gather and then one would begin. His prayers were from the heart. I knew his daughter who was not there, and when he poured out his concern for an “unnamed request” I knew exactly who he was talking about. His rebellious daughter who hated me for always being at church, a goodie two shoes, whom her parents would compare her to. She complained bitterly to me when she had a chance.
Then Beda would take up the prayers with her soft Swedish accent. Her gentle sweet words revealed her deep friendship with the Lord and even I, a somewhat reluctant attendee, could hear that and be blessed by it. Then John whose deep Haugean piety had a sharp edge to it followed by his gentle wife. They also were burdened for their children.
Then Helen, an elegant widow, with her petititons. After an appropriate silence, my dad would end the time by singing a stanza of a hymn, sometimes this one, pronounce the benediction and we would be on our way home.
The rebel daughter had lived a rough life, going her own way, into the place “where demons dwell” as “Borning Cry” has it. The grief she caused her parents--and ultimately mostly herself--was palpable in the quiet room. Their prayers rose from the very depths.
Many years later, I took my parents back to Salem and we had a gathering with old friends and many confirmands who wanted to see my dad, especially. He was failing after a serious head injury in a car accident, but he remembered all their names and their stories. To my surprise, the rebel was there. Her parents were now gone. Here she was, the victim of a brutal spouse, but now happily remarried to a fine Christian man.
I told her we were going to a resort in Seaside the next day and enjoy the ocean one last time. She nodded and said, "I just love to go there and sit overlooking the waters and look around as the waves come in and the grasses at my side wave in the gales of wind. I sit there and think of Psalm 90, "we are like the grass that is renewed in the morning, it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers,” she went on, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Knock me over with a spoon. Was this my old rebel friend, now reciting Scripture like her mom and dad? Yes. Her mother’s and father’s hours of prayers had followed her and brought her home.
A miracle. And proof once again of the power of prayer, in those sweet hours of desperate weekly evenings in which the group put themselves and their needs right out there in front of all of us and the Lord.
Prayer is a habit, a duty, and delight. We have been commanded to pray without ceasing. It can become routine and even wearying sometimes, but when I begin with it as routine, and murmur through them, often a light will dawn. Sometimes even if I don’t feel it quite, “in seasons of distress and grief,” a blessing of peace will descend. Sometimes I won’t even notice it, then realize I am at peace. With thanksgiving, I attribute it to the Lord with wonder and realize, Of course, it was what I just prayed for. "From him whose truth and faithfulness/Engage the waiting soul to bless.” Sweet Hour of Prayer.
HYMN INFO This is one of the 19th century chestnuts that no hymnal could be without. Moderns don’t much care for the word sweet, but in this hymn it has remained. No foolhardy editor or editorial committee that I know of would have the temerity to change it. They think that W. W. Walford, an English preacher who was blind, composed it. Someone heard him sing it at a meeting and someone was there who asked him to repeat it so he could write it down. They really don’t know who he was, except that the song appeared in 1845. The great American Sunday school song composer William Bradbury set it to this tune and published it in his book The Golden Chain in 1861. It has never been given another tune successfully. I am struck on listening to these performances at what a gorgeous tune it is.
Radiance Acapella/East Zimbabwe
German Korean solo
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir https://youtu.be/t5sko7-bEa0
Greg Howlett and St. Clair Randazzo
Mom Winans and the London Symphony
Piano Kaleb Brasee https://youtu.be/6mhML5jU-nE