William Walford, a blind preacher, wrote the words to “Sweet Hour of Prayer” in 1845. The words didn’t become well known for another sixteen years; in 1861, William Bradbury—known today for his many collaborations with Fanny Crosby—wrote the melody we sing today. The song made its first appearance in the 1861 hymnal Golden Chain.
The hymn originally had four verses; most hymnals today only offer the first two or three verses. But the fourth verse is a particular treasure; about three years ago, in a post entitled “The Missing Part of the Modern Christian Song,” I explained why. Enough new readers have joined us since that time that it’s worth revisiting this glorious fourth verse in this “Forgotten Verses” series:
Most modern hymnals either only have verses one and two, or verses one and three; a few have one, two, and three. Yet for years, something about the song struck me as vaguely unsatisfying. It was not until I discovered the fourth verse about two years ago that I realized what it was: Modern hymnals had left out the end of the story.
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!
You see, while we can enjoy prayer on earth—or, more applicably for most of us, work on the habits of spiritual discipline so that we may move toward enjoying it—it is but a weak foretaste of that day when we shall no longer have to pray—for we shall see face to face.
Truth be told, the verse isn’t completely forgotten in Southern Gospel circles. Vestal Goodman recorded it on the classic 1971 Happy Goodmans live recording Wanted Live; that was actually my first introduction to the verse, since it wasn’t in any of the hymnals I used growing up.
Have any other Southern Gospel artists recorded this verse?