Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Sweet Hour of Prayer"

A quiet side chapel in the Cathedral of York
Yorkshire England - a place of prayer
 In the later years of my father's life, I remember coming home for a visit and listening to my father play the organ in our living room.  While my dad had studied music at one time in his life, he never learned to play an organ or piano.  Instead, he relied on a color system to guide his fingers over the keys.  One of his favorite hymns he played each evening was "Sweet Hour of Prayer".  Somehow this beautiful hymn written in 1845 brought comfort to his soul, and the words of the first verse to this hymn express what many of us feel as we come to the Lord in prayer:
     " 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!"
     Taking time to pray on a regular basis is a scriptural injunction with rich blessings.  I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us simply:  "...pray without ceasing..."  Setting aside time for God has to become a way of life for us - a spiritual discipline if you will.  In my own life, I find that quiet place while I exercise or go for a daily walk.  My mind is free to enjoy the presence of the Lord and commune with Him before my day begins.  Then, throughout the day, as things occur at the office or in our home, I lift up prayers to the Lord as well.  Knowing that God is with me all day long makes it easy to talk with Him concerning every circumstance in life.  We need not confine our prayers to a church service or for so many minutes during the day.  We are to pray without ceasing...this means all day long at various times and places.  When we realize this, it should free us up in our ongoing conversation with the Lord.
     In addition, the Bible gives us many reasons why we should want to pray.  For example, we are to pray for wisdom if we lack it in any manner and the Lord will give it if we ask in faith (James 1:5).  Then we are encouraged to pray if we are suffering (James 5:13-15), or if we are sick.  Likewise, we are to call upon the elders of our fellowship to pray for us and with us for healing.  God makes provision for all our needs by allowing us to come before Him in prayer.
     God also calls upon us to pray for our leaders both in the church and in our government.  Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Romans.  Our governmental leaders are placed there by God's direction, and by lifting them up, we can put them in the Lord's hands daily for wisdom and direction.
     Finally, we have so many examples of our Lord Jesus Christ taking time out for fellowship with the Father.  He was our perfect example of how to live before the face of God.  He taught us how to pray in the Lord's prayer.  He also demonstrated His love for both God and His fellow man when Jesus prayed in the Garden for us before His sacrifice on our behalf.  Prayer is no small thing!  It was the backbone of our Savior's ministry, and therefore, it should be for us as well.
     In my own family, I had the privilege of watching my Grandfather Engel kneel in prayer each day before he took a nap.  I saw my father and mother pray and meal time was always commenced with prayer.  These examples have stayed close to my heart, and I am so blessed to see our children teaching this to their own children.
     Prayer is the key that moves the hands of God, relieves an aching heart, brings peace when all else fails, provides strength for the day, and a place to leave our burdens at the feet of the only One who can deal with them.  Spending time in God's presence also changes us and molds us into the likeness of His Son.  May we discover today how the "Sweet Hour of Prayer" can change our hearts and lives into conformity with God's will.  He awaits us to call upon Him.  Selah!

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