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Music Notes


Sweet Hour Of Prayer                    25  January 2018

Often times interesting legends surround our favorite hymns.  The story goes that a minister named Thomas Salmon stopped by the trinket shop of his blind friend and lay minister William Walford.  During the exchange Walford asked Salmon to write down a poem he had written and Salmon did so.  Three years later Salmon was visiting the United States and had the poem published in a newspaper.  And 15 years later William Bradbury (who also composed the music for Jesus Loves Me) set Walford’s poem to music and we are currently enjoying the first verse of Sweet Hour of Prayer as our song of preparation.

However scholars have done some research and can find no William Walford living where Salmon purported the blind man lived.  They did find one living about an hour’s drive from where Salmon states, but that William Walford wasn’t blind at all!

I’m often reminded that in Scripture many times an interesting person is given no name at all.  The woman at the well, the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s robe, the centurion guarding Jesus’ tomb are all examples of this.  Their names are not recorded, but their encounters with Christ are their legacy.  Does it matter truly if William Walford was blind?  Should we be concerned with where he resided?  Did he even really compose the poem?

I don’t think it matters.  God in His glory and His grace and His omnipotent ways continues to use the poem to touch hearts and souls.  Oh the sweet rewards of spending an hour in the Lord’s presence.  Communicating and learning from the very One who loves us most!!  We complain and sometimes daily dread the “oh I have to do my devotions” time.  And we struggle finding it boring and uninteresting.

But the hymn holds true!! If we allow ourselves to be called from this world of violence and hatred and grief into a time of true soul connection with our Heavenly Father we will see that the tempter’s snare has no effect.  We forget that this hour of Prayer is our first defense against the power sin can hold on our lives.

The Lord may not allow future generations to remember our names in several hundred years.  However in our humility our connections with Him will ripple through the centuries.  Perhaps the woman at the well and the centurion will be joined with the man who repaired the widow’s front porch and the woman who teaches Sunday School, the man who held a crying child and the woman who sang a touching song.  All because we spend those moments as moments of connection with the Lord!  We must make this time of devotion with the Lord a priority in our daily life! How I look forward to  “thy return, sweet hour of prayer”!

Michael Dean is the Director of Music at Mount Chestnut Presbyterian Church.  He received his Bachelor’s of Music Education from Westminster College.  Previously he has served as Music Director of the Camerata Girlchoir, and Rider Lutheran Church, and most recently served as an interim conductor for the community group ACTS.  Formerly , he taught private voice and piano lessons.  In addition to his musical ventures, Mr. Dean and his parents operate Ro-Ann Haven Farm, where they milk dairy cattle.

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