Monday Minutes With Pastor Chris McCool (August 24, 2020)

One of my favorite hymns is “Sweet Hour of Prayer.”  Purportedly written by a blind pastor in England in the first half of the 19th Century, this hymn sets forth the blessing we have in our ability to approach God’s throne of grace through the shed blood of Christ.  Listen to the hymn writer:

“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!”

This stanza tells us of the joy that we should feel when approaching the throne of grace. Sometimes, we are reluctant to talk to God about the things we are experiencing in life.  But we are told to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”  Heb 4:16.   We should delight to come into His presence, and bear our petitions to Him.

Have you ever been away from home, maybe on a business trip, and found the opportunity to call home?  In 1989, I went on an educational trip to England for approximately five weeks.  That trip was a wonderful opportunity, but I got so very homesick!  Back then, we didn’t have cell phones at all, and international calls had to be made from pay phones in the town of Oxford where I was staying.  No texting or email either!  International calls were not cheap, and so I had to limit them to two or three times per week.

I can remember the joy I would feel when I knew I was about to call home.  In Oxford, England, where I was staying, I had to walk several blocks in order to get to a pay phone I could use to call my family.  Once, I recall calling around 6 p.m. Oxford time, and catching my family at lunch.  England was six hours ahead of Zion, and I can still remember standing on the street at the pay phone in the late afternoon, thousands of miles from home, yet feeling like I was actually there in their presence!  What a joy it was to discuss the problems I was experiencing, to describe the sights I was seeing, and just generally to enjoy their comforting fellowship!  When the conversation ended, I was already anticipating the next time I could call them.

Prayer is even more wonderful than the experience I had calling home from England.  Prayer is much better than a phone call, because there is never a time when the line isn’t open.  There is an old spiritual called “Jesus on the Mainline,” and it relates our ability to talk to God to a telephone line (the “mainline”):

Jesus on the mainline, tell Him what you want! Jesus on the mainline, tell Him what you want! Jesus on the mainline, tell Him what you want! Call Him up and tell Him what you want.

The writer then speaks a glorious truth:

Well, His line ain’t never busy, you can tell Him what you want; Well, His line ain’t never busy, you can tell Him what you want; Well, His line ain’t never busy, you can tell Him what you want – Call Him up and tell Him what you want.

Aren’t we thankful that, while our telephone service may be bad or nonexistent, there are no dropped calls with God!  Nothing prevents us from experiencing God’s presence:  when we are sick, we can talk with God; when we are depressed, we can talk to God; when we are distant from our church or home, we can talk to God.  Nothing can interfere with our connection to the Almighty.  There is never a time when His “mainline” isn’t open.

As I think about my experience in England, and compare that to my prayer life, I realize that I should be just as excited about and anticipating my time of prayer with God.  When I make the time to go into my closet and pray, rather than it being a burden it should be an excting time of anticipation!  I should be longing for my talks with God even more than my talks with my family when I am away from home.

“Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer! Thy wings shall my petition bear To Him whose truth and faithfulness Engage the waiting soul to bless. And since He bids me seek His face, Believe His Word and trust His grace, I’ll cast on Him my every care, And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!”

But my favorite verse of the song is the last one:

“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 love this verse because it reminds me that prayer is only a fleeting privilege.  One day, it will have served its purpose and will end.  On THAT day, instead of prayer, I will be in the presence of the One Who died for me.  On THAT day, faith will also dissolve into glorious sight!  I think of the loved ones who have gone before me, and envision their shouts while passing through the air, “Farewell, farewell sweet hour of prayer!”

Until that day, I will continue to experience sickness, pain, and sorrow, and will continue to bear my petitions before the throne of grace.  I will trust the Lord to answer them according to His will, and will walk by faith until faith becomes sight.  And I will continue to thank Him for the grace that opens even His throne room to my feeble petitions!

-Eld. Chris McCool