It was not my favorite song as a child. I imagine that had a lot to do with how slowly we sang it. At that pace nothing was sweet. I just wanted to get it over with. But as you mature in Christ I would hope that the title alone would thrill you. Being able to talk to God whenever we need to or simply want to is a blessing beyond compare. “Sweet” hardly seems to do it justice.
The poet, William Walford, was blind. He sat most of the day whittling—usually small commonplace tools like shoehorns—but as he sat, his mind composed both poems and sermons. He could quote copious amounts of scripture, a necessity due to his blindness. Being that familiar with the Bible meant his poems were full of references to scriptures that some of us might have difficulty recalling. Let that be one lesson for us today: do not discard a song because you do not know what it means. Instead, learn what it means by studying the Word of God more.
The first three verses contain allusions or near quotes of a dozen different passages, not counting the ones that are repeated many, many times in the Bible. Then there is the fourth verse. Some of the modern hymn collections, if they choose to use this old-fashioned, musically straightforward (which they consider “boring”) hymn at all, leave out the fourth verse. Why? I am afraid my cynical mind says that due to the woefully shallow “praise songs” we are growing accustomed to, they can no longer think deeply enough to comprehend it. Then there is that small reference to a passage in the Pentateuch they probably never even read before. See what you think.
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!”
Please tell me you do know what and where Mt Pisgah is and why I should be able to see my home from there.
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, Deut 34:1.
Just before his death, God allowed Moses to view the Promised Land from the top of Mount Pisgah. He could not go into the land because of his earlier disobedience, but God took pity on his old soldier and let him take a peek.
And us? At our deaths we stand symbolically on Mt Pisgah, viewing the place Abraham and the faithful of the Old Testament looked at “from afar off.” But we do get to go into the Promised Land, the spiritual fulfillment of that piece of covenant ground from millennia ago. We will drop “this robe of flesh” for a “spiritual body,” and head for the land “whose builder and maker is God.” We will “pass through through the air” to “meet the Lord,” and surely it will be with a shout of joy.
And when we arrive we will no longer need this “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” We will no longer have “distress and grief.” We will no longer be “tempted by the snares of the Devil.” Our spirits will no longer “burn for his return.” We will no longer have cares to “cast on him.” We will be where our God is. We will see his face and be able to talk to Him any time we want.
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer.”
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7