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Words: Thomas Mosie Lister (b. Sept. 8, 1921; d. Feb. 12, 2015)
Music: Thomas Mosie Lister
Note: Mr. Lister died a mere four weeks ago, as of the time of writing this post. Southern Gospel music has lost a prolific champion. Another of his songs, Till the Storm Passes By, is covered on the Wordwise Hymns link. The Hymnary.org link gives virtually no information, except listing a couple of books that include the present song. The Country and Western Gospel Hymnal (Singspiration, 1972) is another where it is found.
This song, challenging us about our need for prayer, is similar in theme to the older one by Mary Kidder’s from 1876, Did You Think to Pray? Each asks a penetrating question?
One time my wife and I were invited to join a number of others at a special banquet. Among those present was a couple we knew in our Bible college days, but whom we hadn’t seen for more than forty years. There were more gray hairs to be seen, of course, but we certainly recognized each other. Soon there was happy conversation and good fellowship between us.
That’s a common human experience. Reunions with friends, or perhaps even family members, that we haven’t seen for a long time. And often there’s the thought, “I wish we’d been more faithful in maintaining contact. I’ve missed something by not doing that.” Having regular communication could have been an enriching experience on both sides.
Think of that as it applies to our relationship with the Lord. First I must ask whether you have a personal relationship with Him? Are you a Christian? There are many who, if you asked them, would claim to be Christians. But the Lord Jesus Christ does not seem to be a present reality in their lives.
It reminds me of a cartoon I saw once. It pictured a man shaking hands with the pastor on his way out of church Sunday morning. To the preacher he complains, “Whenever I come you’re talking about the birth of Jesus.” Very revealing! It’s pretty clear that the only time he thought of coming to the house of God was at Christmas! That’s not going to be much spiritual help.
The same thing applies to prayer. If we’re truly people of faith, we’ll want to pray. And not just when someone takes seriously ill, or we lose our job. The Bible says we are to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). Not that we do nothing but pray 24/7. The expression was used in Bible times of things like a chronic and persistent cough. That’s the idea. We need to pray persistently and habitually, living our daily lives with a sense of God’s presence.
God is not only the Lord who rules over all, He wants to be our Friend and Companion (cf. Rev. 3:20). Any time is a good time for prayer. James Montgomery wrote that “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air.” David tells us his determination: “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray” (Ps. 55:17).
Nehemiah was another great man of prayer. He not only spent long periods talking to the Lord (Neh. 1:4), he also sent up flash prayers in crisis situations (Neh. 2:4). And prayer is more than telling the Lord what we need, though it will often be that. Prayer also involves such things as praying for others, worshiping God and thanking Him for His blessings, and confessing our sins, when we know we’ve displeased Him.
Mosie Lister was deeply concerned for those who had drifted away from the Lord, and grown cold in their spiritual lives. Realizing their need to reconnect with God, he wrote the song, How Long Has It Been? Lister says, “All of a sudden I realized that this was what I needed to say. I just started writing as fast as I could.” (An exercise that took him only ten minutes!)
Published in 1956, the song was often used with great effect by Billy Graham’s soloist, Bev Shea. The song asks:
How long has it been since you talked with the Lord
And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed? How long since you stay
On your knees till the light shone through?
Can you call Him your Friend?
How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?
All good questions!
1) So…How long has it been for you? Do you need to take some time right now to talk with the Lord?
2) What are your favourite hymns about prayer?