Author: Rev. Dr. R. Franklin Gillis
I was raised in a home where prayer was important. Grace at every meal and at bedtime were routine. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” was the first prayer I learned and offered nightly as I kneeled at my bedside, almost always with my mother beside me. In my early years, I also learned the Lord’s Prayer, which was always offered as a part of church worship.
I also remember singing the old well-loved hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” in church. I checked on the history of the hymn and learned that it began as a poem written by a blind wood carver, William Walford, from Coleshill, England. Walford had no formal education, but was known for his sharp memory, and held the reputation of “knowing the Bible from heart.” In 1845, Pastor Thomas Salmon visited Walford, who shared his poem about prayer that he had memorized, and asked Salmon to write it down for him. Salmon, seeing the beauty of the poem, sent it off for publishing, but it was not until several years after Walford’s death that the poem was set to music by William Bradbury, was translated into several languages and became popular around the world. The words of this song seem to speak to our condition – “that calls me from a world of care,” and our “seasons of distress and grief.” It offers a remedy — a “sweet hour of prayer.” This hymn gets to the heart of one of the most important Christian practices. And it holds out hope that we will find relief and escape “the tempter’s snare” by turning to prayer.
There are times in the lives of people of faith when it seems that the only thing to do is pray. As we continue to deal with the multiple issues of the pandemic and social unrest, this seems to be one of those times. So, let us pray! Pray for families whose loved ones have died. Pray for those who lives have been impacted by the virus. Pray for health care workers and first responders in our hospitals and other care facilities. Pray for those affected by the violence in our cities. Pray for healing and hope that our society may find peace and justice for all peoples. Pray for strength to get through these difficult times.
Yes, let us pray. Prayer truly keeps us centered, focused, and connected with God’s will and purposes. Prayer calms our anxieties and guides our actions. If words fail us, let us offer the prayers of others who have gone before us. An appropriate prayer for such a time as this is one known as the Peace Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life. Amen.
Video music with lyrics: “The Prayer” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT1kO8mxbUE
About the Author:
The Rev. Dr. R. Franklin Gillis has been a resident of the Richmond area for 30 years. He served on the Richmond District as senior pastor of Bon Air UMC, and Richmond District Superintendent prior to his retirement. Writing a devotional, “Reflections for the Journey,” is a part of his weekly disciplines.