Saturday, January 21, 2012

What We Really Need

                    "This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing…"
                                                                      Isaiah 28:12  (KJV)

I love old hymns.  One of the dearest to my heart, (and there are many!), is “Sweet Hour of Prayer”.  The song was written by William Walford in 1845.  I will insert here an article written by Thomas Salmon that appeared in the New York Observer on September 13, 1845, concerning the origin of this precious song. 

During my re­si­dence at Coles­hill, War­wick­shire, Eng­land, I be­came ac­quaint­ed with W. W. Wal­ford, the blind preach­er, a man of ob­scure birth and con­nect­ions and no ed­u­ca­tion, but of strong mind and most re­ten­tive mem­o­ry. In the pul­pit he ne­ver failed to se­lect a less­on well adapt­ed to his sub­ject, giv­ing chap­ter and verse with un­err­ing pre­ci­sion and scarce­ly ev­er mis­plac­ing a word in his re­pe­ti­tion of the Psalms, ev­ery part of the New Tes­ta­ment, the pro­phe­cies, and some of the his­to­ries, so as to have the rep­u­ta­tion of “know­ing the whole Bi­ble by heart.” He ac­tu­al­ly sat in the chim­ney cor­ner, em­ploy­ing his mind in com­pos­ing a ser­mon or two for Sab­bath de­liv­ery, and his hands in cut­ting, shap­ing and po­lish­ing bones for shoe horns and other lit­tle use­ful im­ple­ments. At in­ter­vals he at­tempt­ed po­e­try. On one oc­ca­sion, pay­ing him a vi­sit, he re­peat­ed two or three piec­es which he had co­mposed, and hav­ing no friend at home to commit them to paper, he had laid them up in the store­house within. “How will this do?” asked he, as he re­peat­ed the fol­low­ing lines, with a com­pla­cent smile touched with some light lines of fear lest he sub­ject him­self to cri­ti­cism. I ra­pid­ly co­pied the lines with my pen­cil, as he ut­tered them, and sent them for in­ser­tion in the Ob­serv­er, if you should think them worthy of pre­ser­va­tion.

Can you imagine?  The last part of the last sentence says, “if you should think them worthy of preservation’!  I am so thankful someone found them worthy, and then a few years later, William B. Bradbury added the melody and set the words to the music of the beloved song we sing today.  (Click here for a beautiful version by the Mark Taylor Quintet.  Be sure to look at the pictures. :-)

I think one of the main reasons I love this song so much is that I love to pray.  I don’t know of anything I would rather do in this life than to kneel before the throne of my Heavenly Father and spend that one-on-one time with Him….pouring out my heart, then listening for Him to pour out His.  One of my favorite parts of this dear, old hymn is the last verse,
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!”

I cry and am deeply touched, nearly every time I think of those last words, and it occurs to me that one day I will need to bid farewell to this precious, cherished part of my earthly life.  That makes me feel sad…until I realize that once I pass through the air and shout farewell to those sacred moments spent at the feet of Jesus, I will enter a realm where I can see Him…face-to-face!  I can kneel down, and I can bow at His feet throughout all eternity!  No more to be called away from His presence because of the toilsome duties of this life!  No more to cry and weep before Him over the burdens upon my soul!  No more to be pulled aside by the tempter and tormented!  The everlasting prize will be seized, and never again will there be a need to pray, for I will be in His presence forevermore.

I used to find it hard to understand people who would confess to me that they were neglecting their prayer life, knowing that mine was such an integral and vital part of my life.  It was only after I went through my own personal experience of neglect that I could see and understand how they would end up in such a sad, spiritually drained and depleted condition.  I don’t know how it happened with me, but it did.  Just a little neglect here and there….I just didn’t seem to find the time to pray.  I became so busy and caught up in so many other things, that I would put it off and promise myself I would do it later.  How I could ever think I could go on in my own strength and not draw from its all-sustaining well, I do not know.

I began to feel the lack…it didn’t take long, either.  I found myself in a state of full-blown depression…such deep, intense sadness way down inside.  At first, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong…why was I so sad?  Why did I feel so empty?  How could I be unhappy?  I had so much around me to give me joy.  I began to seek the Lord about it, and I found that the more I prayed, the better I felt.  I found that when I would make the sacrifice to make sure I prayed the very first thing each day and spent that essential time with my dear Lord, my depression dissipated.  I no longer felt sad inside.  I felt complete, filled, and deeply happy. 

I learned the hard way that prayer is absolutely vital and crucial to not only my spiritual, but my emotional and mental well-being.  I cannot afford to go without it.  There is just something transforming about coming into God’s holy presence…I never leave it unchanged.  I have never left my knees from my “sweet hour of prayer” feeling anything but relieved.  There is sweet release in laying my burdens out before Him, and feeling His tender compassion and knowing that He knows exactly what is wrong and how to fix it. 

You see, God created everything else before He created man.  But none of it filled HIS longing.  He wanted a being that He could establish a relationship with that was interactive.  Someone He could love and someone who would love Him back.  Someone He could spend time with and someone who would spend time with Him.  So, at the end of the creation process, He created man…in His Own image…and in his heart, He created a desire and longing for Him.

I have it, and you have it, too.  There isn’t a conscious, competent human alive who doesn’t feel that….we do everything we can to mask the symptoms and hide the unhappiness.  But, at the end of the day, it is still there. 

My friend, are you troubled?  Are you depressed?  Is there sadness within you that nothing seems to take away?  Have you tried it all, and still nothing has eased the pain?  There are a lot of things in this life that have been created for the very purpose of taking away the pain…and many of them do…for a while.  But, when the fix wears off, that old, nagging, deep-down sorrow, misery, and gloom is still there.  There is a despondency buried deep within the heart of every person for which there is only one remedy.

Can I lovingly ask you a question…not to scold or condemn, but to help?  How long has it been since you prayed?  I mean really prayed?  You’ve tried everything else.  You keep coming up empty.  Aren’t you tired of the vicious cycle?  Don’t you want relief?  God loves you.  He hates to see you struggling, running here and there, trying to find the answers….it breaks His heart.  His arms are open.  He has the “fix” you are looking for.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  His invitation is for YOU.  He’ll come where you are…all you have to do is whisper His name….He’ll be right there.  I promise.

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