“Sweet Hour of Prayer”
by William W. Walford
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3
It is a mystery. Who was William Walford? Some believe he was a blind shopkeeper in the village of Coleshill, Warwickshire, England, who asked a friend to write down a poem that was forming in his mind. Others believe he was a clergyman in that town who gave a copy of this poem to his friend and fellow clergyman, Thomas Salmon.
We will probably never know for sure. But it is a fact that a Rev. Thomas Salmon, a minister in a Warwickshire church in 1842, received a special poem entitled “Sweet Hour of Prayer” from its author, William Walford, whose Christian commitment is revealed in the words. When Salmon returned to America following his pastorate in England, he sent the poem to the publisher of the New York Observer. It was printed in the September 1845 edition of the newspaper.
Musician William B. Bradbury was touched by its simple but profound message. He composed a beautiful melody that became the wings for carrying the message out into the world. The identity of poet William Walford remains a mystery, but so is prayer. As I read the disciples’ request to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1b), I recognized my own need to be taught.
Years ago, my whole life was changed when I realized that I did not know how to pray. I was alone in the waiting room of a hospital in New Mexico. Fear enveloped me as I waited while my nine-year-old son had emergency surgery.
I picked up a magazine called Adventures in Prayer. The author, Catherine Marshall, described her experiences in prayer, which did not resemble anything I knew. She prayed as if she were actually talking to God as a real person. That relationship sounded too good to be true, but I longed to experience it. I knew that all of my church attendance since childhood, marrying a minister, and becoming a missionary would not sustain me during those anxious moments.
So I began to pray. “Lord, are you listening? I have never known you. But I want to. Help me.” I could not imagine what would happen. This was the most exciting prayer I had ever uttered. I believed and I waited. Soon I began to experience the awesome presence of God that never ceases. The words in the last stanza of “Sweet Hour of Prayer” say exactly what I know to be true: “Since he bids me seek his face, believe his word and trust his grace, I’ll cast on him my every care.”
Lord God, thank you for that desire to discover that you are real and for the opportunity to talk with you. Amen.
“Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour or prayer! That calls me from a world of care,
and bids me at my Father’s throne make all my wants and wishes know.
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!”
William Walford, 1845
|Read more hymn stories by Lucy Neeley Adams at 52 Hymns.com
Find more printable vintage hymn pages at Knick of Time Vintage Farmhouse Living.
Lucy Adams – In 1984 in Nashville, Tennessee I began to write answers for the question, “Why do people write songs?” Those stories first appeared on a radio program that I created: THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG aired on Christian radio station WWGM. The program began as I sang six words, “I Love to Tell the Story” and said: “Hi friends, this is Lucy Adams and I tell the story behind the song.” I continued the show for five minutes with a message that answered … who, what, where and why of the hymn – plus a verse or two of the music. These programs continued to play for many years in various towns in Tennessee. Visit my blog to learn more about the stories of our favorite hymns at https://www.52hymns.com/about.htm