Posted by: rcottrill | June 10, 2011

‘Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer

Words: Frances Jane (“Fanny”) Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: William Howard Doane (b. Feb. 3, 1832; d. Dec. 23, 1915)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Could there be a more tender and lovely hymn, about the blessing awaiting God’s people at Prayer Meeting? It certainly captures something of the spirit of the occasion. Expressed in it, there is a love for the Lord, a concern for one another, and a delight in the opportunity to pray together.

Forms of the word “pray” are used in our English Bibles over 340 times (excluding the old English expression of the KJV, “I pray thee”–which is addressed to human beings). To this, of course, can be added other words such as, supplication, intercession, and confession, not to mention worship, thanksgiving and praise. From Genesis to Revelation (Gen. 20:7; Rev. 8:4), we read about prayer, and people praying. Often, they pray in private and alone, and it’s important to do that. But other times, we read of believers gathering for the purpose, and praying together (e.g. Acts 1:13-14; 12:12; 21:5).

Prayer unites the people of God. As we draw nearer to the Lord, we also draw nearer to one another. Praying for each other does that. Prayer also refocuses our lives. It helps us see the events of our days through the eyes of God. There is so much more that could be said about it. But among many other things:

Prayer is an expression of faith–which we all need. In fact, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). But, as Fanny Crosby puts it, “If we come to him in faith…what a balm for the weary!” (CH-1).

Prayer is fellowship with the Lord, “when we gather to Jesus, our Saviour and Friend” (CH-1). When we purposefully draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (Jas. 4:8). Assured of His concern, we can cast all our cares upon Him (I Pet. 5:7). As stanza CH-2 says:

’Tis the blessèd hour of prayer, when the Saviour draws near,
With a tender compassion His children to hear;
When He tells us we may cast at His feet every care,
What a balm for the weary, O how sweet to be there!

Prayer is a means of gaining needed help, as we draw upon the resources of heaven. The Bible says:

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

This truth is brought out in CH-3. There is strength and comfort from the Lord, as we gather before His throne and seek His help. However, we might justly question the line, “With a sympathizing heart He removes every care.”

If the author means that God sooths our worries, then yes. The Lord encourages the troubled heart, as we entrust our burdens to Him (Phil. 4:6-7). But He doesn’t remove every practical problem from our lives. Though He may deliver us sometimes, on other occasions He gives us the grace to bear the burden. I think I would have used the word “relieves,” rather than “removes.”

Prayer enables us to live confidently. The promise is, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matt. 7:7). Of course, that verse cannot be taken in isolation from the Bible’s full teaching on prayer. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). He meets our needs, not our greeds! When what we ask for is in accord with the will of God (I Jn. 5:14), and for the glory of God (Jn. 14:13), then we can have assurance that He will answer in a way that is for our best, and for His glory.

At the blessèd hour of prayer, trusting Him, we believe
That the blessing we’re needing we’ll surely receive;
In the fullness of the trust we shall lose every care;
What a balm for the weary, O how sweet to be there!

1) If our local church prayer meeting is poorly attended, or seems a dry matter of going through the motions, what can be done to improve things?

2) When, at times, our prayers seem to go unanswered, what are some possible reasons?

3) What are some possible blessings in unanswered prayers? (These may be prayers for which the Lord delays an answer, or perhaps answers in another way than we expected.)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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