W. W. Walford was a blind preacher of obscure birth with no education,
but he had a strong mind and a most retentive memory. Although blind,
in the pulpit he was always able to give chapter and verse with unerring
precision and scarcely ever misplaced a word as he quoted from the
Psalms and every part of the New Testament. Because he had memorized so
much of the word of God, people said that he knew the whole Bible by
heart. He would actually sit at home in the chimney corner, meditating
on the Scriptures, and at the same time he would be cutting, shaping and
polishing bones with his hands for shoehorns and other little useful
implements. Sometimes he would even attempt poetry. Once a friend
visited him and Walford quoted one of his poems, and his friend
committed the words to paper. The first stanza of the poem the friend
wrote down for Walford are the familiar words -
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!
I don't believe we in the church of Christ place enough importance on
prayer; however, prayer is the very air that the Christian breathes.
Augustine tells us that "prayer is the soul's breathing." When we fail
to pray, we are actually suffocating our soul. A Christian without
prayer is spiritually dead. One man said, "Prayer is the first thing,
the second thing, and the third thing necessary to a Christian. Pray,
then, my dear brother; pray, pray, pray." Spurgeon wrote, "If a church
does not pray, it is dead." He continues, "Neglect of private prayer is
the locust that devours the strength of the church." Continual prayer
deters us from becoming weak.
REPETITION OF THE THEME
Nine times in this song we find the title repeated, "Sweet Hour of
Prayer." First, notice the title does not say, "Sweet Minute of
Prayer." In the garden of Gethsemane, we do not know how long Jesus
prayed, but he probably prayed an hour, for he asks his disciples,
"Could you not stay awake one hour?" (Mark 14:37). Sometimes all of our
schedules become so hectic that we just don't pray much. I'm not saying
that we have to pray an hour every day. But have you ever prayed a full
hour? We will sit in front of the television and watch an hour-long
program, but wouldn't think of spending an hour alone with God in
prayer. The time we spend in prayer is a measure of how much we love
Asbury said, "I propose to rise at four o'clock as often as I can and
spend two hours in prayer and meditation." Samuel Rutherford rose at
three in the morning to meet God in prayer. Joseph Alleine arose at
four o'clock and prayed until eight, when he opened his store. Robert
McCheyne would spend from six to eight every morning praying. John
Welch thought the day wasted if he did not spend eight or ten hours in
prayer. His wife would complain when she found him lying on the ground
at night weeping. He would reply, "Wife, I have the souls of three
thousand to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!" We
may not know who many of these people are, but they put many of us to
MEN OF GOD
In the Scripture, we read of many men of God who prayed for hours
without stopping - "And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD
all night" (1 Samuel 15:11). We read about Anna, who had been a widow
for 84 years, Luke 2:37 says, she "did not depart from the temple, but
served God with fastings and prayers night and day." Luke 6:12 says,
"Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to
pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." One man said, "If
Christians spent as much time praying as they do grumbling, they would
soon have nothing to grumble about."
A DREADFUL HOUR?
Notice again, the song does not say, "Dreadful hour of prayer." Prayer
should be "sweet". Sometimes we look at prayer as a chore, instead of a
privilege. We should long to pray to God. The lyrics of this song says
"Sweet hour of prayer. The joy I feel, the bliss I share."
There are three levels of prayer:
First, Casual Praying
This kind of prayer is done at mealtime, bedtime, when we have to, or
when it's expected of us. Our prayers tend to be quick and to the
point, lasting at most 2 or 3 minutes. There is nothing wrong with
this, but casual praying is as far as some people reach in their prayer
Second, Parroted Praying
We just parrot well-fabricated phrases that we have heard other brethren
use. In this stage, we say all the right things, but our heart is not
in it. We pray for it because we are supposed to pray for it, but there
is no feeling behind it. Sometimes we do pray fairly regularly, but our
prayers often feel stale and shallow and we get into this rut of praying
the same old things every day. There is the same numbing repetition of
the same hackneyed phrases, but a prayer without feeling is like a body
without a soul.
Third, Soul Praying
In this type of prayer, we plead with God with feeling to help us, and
are so thankful to God for helping us in the past that our joy overflows
as we pray to Him. In Colossians 4:12 we read that Epaphras "is always
wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of
God, mature and fully assured." Epaphras was wrestling with God in
prayer. This kind of prayer is the sweat of the soul. This is an
agonizing heart crying out mightily unto the Lord as Jesus did in the
garden. Hebrews 5:7 says that Jesus "offered up prayers and
supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save
Like Hannah sometimes we need to "pour out our soul before the Lord." 1
Samuel 1:10 says, "And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the
LORD and wept in anguish." We need to pour out our hearts like water
before the face of the Lord, and tell him our worries, joys, pains,
fears, hopes, everything. We spill out our hearts to Him, even rage out
our disappointments in Him, as David so often did in the Psalms.
To develop "soul prayer" in your life, let me suggest using the Psalms
as models for your prayers. Notice how often David puts feeling and
emotion into his prayers. Here are some excerpts from Psalm 42 "As a
deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you. . . My tears have
been my food day and night. . . Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so
disturbed within me? Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about
mourning?" The Psalms teach us to pray openly and honestly to God,
especially out of the darkest nights of our soul.
So where are you on the prayer growth chart - casual prayer only,
parroted prayer, or soul prayer? At what level is your prayer life?
Soul prayer is the key to having a close relationship with God.
DAVID'S FOUR SENTIMENTS
There are at least four sentiments found in the book of Psalms which we
need to express in our prayers:
First -"I love and exalt you."
Psalm 18:1 says, "I will love You, O LORD my strength." As humans we
like for someone to tell us they love us unconditionally - that they
love us not just because of things we do, but because of who we are. No
sweeter words can be said than "I love you." Likewise, God likes for us
to tell Him we love Him because of who He is. We love God, not merely
on the basis of what He has done, but because we understand His true
character, that is, the emotional, intellectual, and moral qualities
which set Him apart and make Him great.
I love you and exalt you because you know all. "Lord, my knowledge is
like a drop of water, but your KNOWLEDGE is wider than the ocean."
Psalm 139:2,4 says, "You know my sitting down and my rising up; You
understand my thought afar off. For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether."
I love you because, though we are so unloving and impatient, "You, O
Lord, are a God full of COMPASSION, and gracious, longsuffering and
abundant in mercy and truth" (Psalm 86: 15).
I love you because "You are HOLY, enthroned in the praises of Israel"
I love you because you are our strength. Psalm 23:4 says, "Yea, though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For
You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." Psalm 31:4
says "Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For
You are my strength."
Furthermore, we express our love to God because he is EVERLASTING.
Psalm 90:2 "Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had
formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting,
You are God." Psalm 93:2 states, "Our throne is established from of
old; You are from everlasting." Psalm 102:27 says, "But You are the
same, And Your years will have no end." Have you told God that you love
him because of his character?
Second- "I appreciate you"
We all like to feel appreciated. If we go out of our way and work hard
to do something, we like for someone to take notice and acknowledge our
effort. It bothers us when people do not express their gratitude. It's
as if they put no value on what we've done for them. God likes to be
appreciated for what he has done for us. Entire psalms are devoted to
thanking God for His incredible deeds for His people. "Blessed be the
LORD God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things!" (Psalm
Have you ever been so thankful, that you got up in the middle of the
night, and got on your knees to thank God? Psalm 119:62 "At midnight I
will rise to give thanks to You, because of Your righteous judgments."
David crawls out of bed at midnight to thank God.
We have all heard entire prayers to God in the assembly, where not a
word of thanks is given to God. How shameful! In Psalm 107 verses 8,
15, 21, 31 we find the same verse, "Oh, that men would give thanks to
the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children
of men!" Oh, how we need to express our appreciation daily to God in
Third -"I trust you" with my life.
We all like for people to trust us. We like for people to share secrets
with us. We like for people to think enough of us to trust us with
their car, or house, or money. So God wants us to trust him with
everything. David trusted God so much that he said, "Into your hand I
commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth" (Psalm
31:5). This is not just something we say when we die, but this is a
dedication to live for Jesus. We lift up our lives and say "To You, O
LORD, I lift up my soul" (Psalm 25: I ). It's all yours. David told the
LORD in Psalm 119:94, "I am Yours".
There was a tightrope walker which did incredible aerial feats. All
over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously scary heights.
Then he had succeeding acts; he would do it blindfolded, then he would
go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow. An
American promoter read about this in the papers and wrote a letter to
the tightrope walker, saying, "Tightrope, I don't believe you can do it,
but I'm willing to make you an offer. For a very substantial sum of
money, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls."
Now, Tightrope wrote back, "Sir, although I've never been to America and
seen the Falls, I'd love to come." Well, after a lot of promotion and
setting the whole thing up, many people came to see the event.
Tightrope was to start on the Canadian side and come to the American
side. Drums roll, and he comes across the rope which is suspended over
the treacherous part of the falls - blindfolded!! And he makes it
across easily. The crowds go wild, as he walks across it a second time,
this time pushing a wheelbarrow. He comes to the promoter and says,
"Well, Mr. Promoter, now, do you believe I can do it?" "Well of course
I do. I mean, I just saw you do it." "No," said Tightrope, "do you
really believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do, you just did it."
"No, no, no," said Tightrope, "do you believe I can do it?" "Yes," said
Mr. Promoter, "I believe you can do it." "Good," said Tightrope, "then
you get in the wheelbarrow." Of course, the promoter didn't want to do
that. We believe God can do anything, but we are not willing to trust
him with our life.
We should tell God, "I don't know what to do. I don't know why you
allowed this to happen to me, but O LORD my God, in You I put my trust
because You know what is best for me." Psalm 31:1 reads, "In You, O
LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed." And if you come to a
decision where you don't know what God's will is, pray what David prayed
in Psalm 143:8 "In You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I
should walk, For I lift up my soul to You." You can pray, "Lord, I
don't know what to do, but I trust you to help me make the right
Fourth - "I need you."
We all like to feel needed. One of the worst things you can say to
someone is, "We don't need you." We all like to feel valuable.
Likewise, God delights in hearing us tell him that we need him. God
wants to hear us say, "We can't make it on our own." We depend upon him
as a newborn baby depends upon its parents.
Four times, David just comes right out and expresses his need for God.
Psalm 40:17, "But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You
are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God." In Psalm 70:5,
David confesses, "But I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You
are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay." Psalm 86:1 "Bow
down Your ear, O LORD, hear me; For I am poor and needy." Psalm 109:22
"For I am poor and needy, And my heart is wounded within me."
David is recognizing his own inadequacy, and is depending on God to
supply his every need. Prayer is my personal declaration of dependence
on God. When I come to Him I'm saying, "I am totally dependent upon You
for my needs, God. Without you, I can do nothing." Following are a few
of the many things we need God for.
We need God's forgiveness. Psalm 25:18 reads, "Look on my affliction
and my pain, and forgive all my sins." Psalm 86:3 says, "Be merciful to
me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long." We lay out our shortcomings
before him and ask him for mercy.
We need God's help in our day to day troubles. We see in Psalm
31:9,12,16, "Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye
wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! I am forgotten like a
dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. Make Your face shine
upon Your servant; Save me for Your mercies' sake." Psalm 69:17 reads,
"And do not hide Your face from Your servant, for I am in trouble;
hear me speedily."
We need God to help us handle our mortality. Some people fear growing
old and dying. Psalm 39:4 "LORD, make me to know my end, And what is
the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed You have
made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor." In Psalm 102:24 an
afflicted man prays, "Oh my God, Do not take me away in the midst of my
We need God to guide us and keep us from making foolish decisions.
Psalm 73:22-24 "I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before
You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right
hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to
HELP US LOVE OUR ENEMIES
We need God to help us love our enemies. David was always praying about
his enemies in the Psalms. David asks God in Psalm 25:19 "Consider my
enemies, for they are many, And they hate me with cruel hatred." Maybe
your parents abused you when you were growing up, verbally or
physically; it may take divine help to be able to forgive them. Maybe a
brother in the church said something that offended you, then plead with
God to help you love your enemies. Luke 6:27 says, "But I say to you
who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those
who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you." We just do
not like some people. We need God to help us love them.
We need God's help to overcome temptation. Satan and all his forces are
out to defeat us through temptation and fear. If we start the day
without praying for God's strength, we are going into battle with only
our own resources - and that's simply not much! We need God's strength
to help us not to give into this temptation. Psalm 86:16 says, "Give
your strength to your servant, and save the son of Your maidservant."
Twice Jesus charged His disciples "Pray that you do not enter into
temptation" (Luke 22:40,46). In verse 46 He asks them, "Why do you
sleep?" then directs them, "Rise and pray that you may not enter into
temptation." Temptations are like the doors of a house, and the inside
is full of sinful pleasures. There is something inside that our flesh
desires. We must decide to either ENTER into the temptation or ESCAPE
it. Our flesh desperately longs to enter, but we must pray God to make
us strong that we might escape. Our song says, "My soul has often found
relief and oft escaped the tempter's snare by thy return sweet hour of
Prayer is not only for our benefit, but it is also for God's enjoyment.
He as a Father longs to hear from the children whom He dearly loves.
May this article encourage you to spend a more time in prayer today,
that you may tell your Father that you love Him, and how great He is.
Tell Him you appreciate Him for all He has done for you, and that you
trust Him with all your problems and your life, and never close a prayer
without telling Him you need Him.