Sweet Hour of Prayer

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

I. Beginnings

Throughout our years within the church, we have seen the narratives within the scripture, where Jesus moved throughout his ministry healing people.  He saw their wants and needs and showing them a divine love that is found only in God.  Just last week we saw a narrative where Jesus was willing to dig through the muck and the mire to genuinely see a woman in pain and a man in desperate need of a miracle.  Jesus was not only willing to provide healing, but fully see them in all that they were to affirm, restore, and transform each of them.  And this week’s narrative is no different, we see that Jesus heals over and over, seeing the needs of the people and providing healing.  But how often do we pay attention to what Jesus is actually doing?  How often do we see the actions of Jesus as a guide for our lives?  Jesus heals, but we also see that Jesus stepped into a secluded space that he might enter into that sweet hour of prayer – that moment of deep seclusion and vulnerability to connect with God – that moment where relationship is built with God – that moment where we give our praise and thanksgiving to our God – that moment where we bear our soul before God that God might comfort our moans and groans and wipe away the tears that fall from our eyes.  How often do we follow the actions of Jesus Christ and enter into that sweet hour of prayer, just like Jesus sought out to do? Jesus went out to a deserted place, out to a sacred place, alone, a place not interrupted by the chaos of the world and began to pray.  Entering into the sweet hour of prayer.  What might life be like if before anything, before we take a step out into the chaotic world, before we step out on faith, after we have achieved great things, when our soul grieves, or just throughout the journey of life, we take it before God first and enter into that Sweet Hour of Prayer.

 II. What Is The Sweet Hour Of Prayer?

Sweet hour of Prayer – that blessed that sacred sweet hour of prayer.  That sweet hour of prayer calls us from the world of care, that we might commune with God away from all that distracts us.  That sweet hour of prayer that places us at the feet of God’s throne.  That sweet hour of prayer where our wants and wishes are made known.  That sweet hour of prayer that we can go to in our seasons of despair and grief.  That sweet hour of prayer where our soul find’s relief.  That Sweet hour of prayer where we can escape the darts and throws of the enemy that seek to knock us down and tear us apart.  That sweet hour of prayer that we can depend on and meet God intimately.

Sweet Hour of Prayer – that blessed sweet hour of prayer. The joys I feel, the bliss I share, how joyous it is to meet our God in prayer.  That sweet hour of prayer where anxious spirits burn with strong desires for God’s return, we wait for that day of Christ’s return, but in the mean time we commune with God, building that relationship between us and the Divine. So, we hasten to that place where we might see God, and we wait for God in that sweet hour of prayer.

 None of us are above needing to sit with God in that vulnerable space of that Sweet Hour of Prayer, even Jesus, who was in fact the Divine one himself, sat in that sweet hour of prayer in communion with God.  So, who are we to neglect the tools that God has given to us? Jesus has shown us that it is imperative to sit in communion with God in that sweet hour of prayer. In this world, God is doing a new and transformational thing, that transcends all the things that we are experiencing in the now, and provides a healing for the land.  And as that people of God, we are called to prepare for what God is doing, by spending time in that sweet hour of prayer – waiting for the guidance that God is giving in this moment.

 III. At The Beginning of Ministry

Our scripture this morning is situated at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, it is just before he begins teaching throughout Galilee and journeys down to Jerusalem. This is before Jesus traveled to spread his good news throughout the land.  Jesus has been baptized, which some might say is the inauguration of his ministry in which he was proclaimed as the Son of God and birthed into his ministry.  Jesus has gone out into the wilderness, where he fasted and prayed, sat with God in prayer before his ministry began.  Jesus has begun to choose his disciples, but has not chosen all of them yet.  Jesus has then taught within the synagogue and portrayed a preview of his divinity as he cast out demons from a man.  But yet, Jesus is standing here at the precipice of his ministry, at the very beginning, very few people know the name of Jesus and if they had by some chance heard the whisper of his name within the street, there has not been much that has happened that has confirmed his divinity, not much has proved he is the son of God, not much has been done to confirm he is the coming messiah.  If we were to hold Jesus to some type of human standard, some might say that Jesus was still wet behind the ears, still a youngin’ in the game. He was brand new to this ministry thing, some might have even felt that he was naïve, inexperienced, and had no clue what he was getting himself into. He is still just a baby when it comes to where he is a about to go and all that he is about to do.

Jesus and the couple of disciples that have been chosen, gather in Simon’s house, the disciple we know as Peter, and his mother-in-law is sick.  The scripture says that she had a fever.  In our context a fever is a minor symptom of a quite larger situation, but in this biblical era, a fever was a life-threatening condition.  This woman was knocking at deaths door, the grim reaper was calling her name, her only hope was a future home in glory. And yet with a touch of the hand, Jesus healed her, she was restored back to vibrancy and able to not only just be healed, but she was able to have enough strength to be a good hostess to the people who were in her home.  But it did not stop there, people from all over Galilee began to come to Simon’s home so that they might get a healing, probably hearing the word spread throughout the small town they were in about the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law.  We all know how juicy details can spread like rapid fire throughout the community, with just one word. And Jesus in that moment healed those who were sick, coming to him for restoration. 

What we see here is again, the precipice of the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus is about to do a new thing in the world.  He is about to overturn societal structures, Jesus is about to empower and affirm women, Jesus is about to show the world that the poor have human worth, Jesus is about to make the blind see, Jesus is about to make the lame walk, Jesus is about to challenge the chief priests and the Pharisees, Jesus is about to challenge the Roman government, Jesus is about to proclaim the value and worth of the oppressed, Jesus is about to heal those who are sick, Jesus is also to save the entire world from sin and death, Jesus is about to proclaim the reign of the Kingdom of God here on earth, Jesus is about to bring about redemption with the lashes on his back and the crown of thorns on his heard, Jesus  is coming to bring salvation as he stretches out his arms in agony as he struggles to breathe his last breaths, Jesus is granting new life through resurrection from death.  But we are still on the precipice, we are still on the fringes, we are still at the beginning waiting, watching with eyes wide open and bated breath, just waiting to watch and see what Jesus is going to do.  And it all begins with a healing in the land.  It all begins as those who needed redemption, those who needed healing came to Christ for help.

IV. WE Are Searching For God’s Healing In the Land

As we anticipate what the Lord is doing in the context of our own world, it is no secret that we are kneeling before God, hoping that God might heal the land.  We know that there is a present reality of the reign of the Kingdom of God in the here and the now, but our land is in desperate need of healing.  God we are looking to you in hopes that your revolution and transformation is on the horizon, but we desperately need your healing. There have been more than 26 million cases of COVID just within the United States alone, and we also have to wrestle with the fact that we are horrifyingly approaching nearly 500,000 death from this COVID virus.  Yes, the numbers seem to be at a slight decline, and yes they are administering the vaccine, but the end of this week brought a record high of deaths and we have to be honest that we are pleading for the Lord to heal the land to get back to even an inkling of the normalcy that we used to have.  We are coming to God, that God might heal our land. Our land has been riddled with politically polarity that has made crossing the aisle unthinkable, with distrust on both sides. And there is significant difference in perception of what is really happening in the world.  Our world has been created and orchestrated for us within the constructs of the algorithms of our social media, almost creating puppets and forming a world that is crafted for us to think and act a certain way, that we might play into the roles of political polarity.  And the current administration is proclaiming an implementation of unity, which almost seems more like a cliché response filled with empty promises. So, we are looking on the horizon in hopes that God might heal the land.  Our land has been shaken by racial injustice, and while there hasn’t been a specific egregious case of blatant racial injustice in the past couple of days, Breonna Taylor still had her life taken from her as she slept in her bed, and there has been little to no justice in her death.  And if we are honest, the racial injustice has been built within the constructs of our very society, so no matter what day it is, it is only a matter of time before it rears its ugly head once again – and we will be left wrestling with the pieces laid before, weeping from the pain that it has caused.  We are standing before God, asking that God might heal the land.  Just this past week we saw a beloved police officer of the capitol police, Brian Sicknick, lie in state, lying in honor at the Capitol Rotunda as he lost his life from a violent act that should not have been on January 6, as he was struck over the head with a fire extinguisher. As we seek out peace and love, we are standing here, Lord, asking for the healing of our land.

And just as the people were seeking out the healing of Jesus that begins the visible enactment of the reign of the Kingdom of God here on earth, we too are asking for healing.  We are asking for the reign of the Kingdom of God to be present and felt within our world today, and we are looking to God for ways to make that happen.  We are coming to God asking that God might heal the land, establishing love, peace, and justice creating Beloved Community within our world.

 V. Go to God in Prayer

But watch this! Jesus had begun the healing, but before he begins the rest of his journey, he isolates himself and prays.  Before he does anything else, he comes to the feet of God and prays.  He comes to God in vulnerability, opens his soul, and lays himself bare.  He returns to the one who grants strength, the one who grants love, the one who grants comfort.  We aren’t sure what Jesus was praying about or for, but we do know that before anything else  happened Jesus went to that place of seclusion to be with God, to commune with God, to be in relationship with God, in that Sweet Hour of Prayer.  So often we pay attention to Christ’s divinity that we forget his humanity.  We cannot ignore his divinity, but we also cannot ignore his humanity.  And in his human life, his human self, his humanness that wept, felt pain, that suffered and died, it was his human self that turned to God in prayer in an intimate setting.  Maybe he was asking for strength to continue the journey, maybe he was praising God, maybe he was offering up his life in dedication, or maybe he was doing all these things and more – none of this we know.  But we know that before anything else happened Jesus placed himself in the very place of connection and genuine relationship with God – he sat at the foot of the throne saying here I am, God, let us connect together in communion. And if even Jesus needed this, then surely we do too.

For it is us proclaiming that it is us, Lord, its me, its me, its me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer, not my mother, my father, my sister or brother, but its me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.  So we too must bring ourselves to the very place of vulnerability with God, to that place where we can talk to God, to that place where our connection with God can grow and we can build relationship with God because we sit with God, we go to that place where we praise God, we give God our concerns, we seek God for guidance, we seek God for comfort, and we listen to what God is saying as we stand in that blessed sweet hour of prayer.

Sweet Hour of Prayer, that blessed sweet hour of prayer. Thy wings shall my petition bear to him whose truth and faithfulness engage the waiting soul to bless. When we have concerns we bring them to you, God, and your being engages with us within that sweet hour of prayer.  And because We seek out God’s face we believe God’s word and trust the grace extended to us all. And within that great sweet hour of prayer we will bring all our cares before God.

So, as we look to God for healing, as we look for the reign of the kingdom of God to be felt, as we look to God to reveal Godself, as we look for the healing and transformation of the world, as we proclaim God’s love in the world, we must first go to God in prayer, speaking, but also listening that God might direct our path – in that blessed moment of the Sweet Hour of Prayer.

So, while we may not know the exact prayer that Jesus lifted up in the scripture, this morning, and some of us may even struggle with what to pray and how to pray, especially when the world around us seems to be so chaotic and ready to fall apart, we can always start with the prayer that the Jesus once taught us – and we can pray it in a way that makes sense to us:


Our heavenly parent, God, the one who is in heaven, holy is your name.  We acknowledge that in Christ Jesus, you brought about a healing that began the reign of the Kingdom of God and we pray for its continuance in our world and we look forward to it in the world to come.  Your will be done in all things, in this world, and let your transformational change take hold in this world today – Your will be done both here and in heaven.  You have given us this day, and have even laid before us the food that nourishes our bodies and our souls.  Forgive us for all that we have done, and give us the humble heart that will allow us to forgive those who have sinned against us. Guide our feet Lord that we avoid temptation and are led by your holy ways. Deliver us from all evil that we might be formed and shaped by you. For all things belong to you and are within your kingdom. All Power is yours. All glory is yours.

Lord you are doing a new thing.  Let your will be done in ways that proclaim your kingdom in the world and guide the footsteps of your people. Amen.

Let us never forget the transformational power of that Sweet Hour of Prayer.