[“One Hour with Jesus” is a truthful, beautiful, compassionate entreaty to believers to spend one hour at the start of each day alone with the Lord, reading His Word, praying, and praising Him.]
ONE HOUR WITH JESUS.
“What! could ye not watch with Me one hour!”
An echo of this utterance of pathetic surprise, this wonderfully gentle reproof, seems to float around a matter of daily experience, and, with too many, of daily faithlessness. Our Divine Master has called us to no Gethsemane-watch of strange and mysterious darkness. It is while the brightness of day is breaking — perhaps even long after it has broken — that His call to communion with Himself reaches our not always willing ear. “Come with me!” (Song of Solomon 4:8). And the drowsy reply too often is, “Presently, Lord! not just this minute!”
And then, after “yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep,” the precious hour is past which “might have been” so full of blessing. “What! could ye not watch with Me one hour?” What is the practical answer of very many of His disciples?
“Oh, yes! very easily and readily, when the ‘one hour’ is at night, and we do not feel particularly inclined to go to bed, especially if we have a nice fire to ‘watch’ by. But oh, no! if the ‘one hour’ involves getting up at seven instead of eight, especially on a cold and gloomy morning. That is a very different matter!”
Were the question asked, “What one thing do you suppose has most hindered the largest number of Christians this day and this year in their spiritual life and growth?” I should reply unhesitatingly, “Probably the temptation not to rise in time to put on their armor as well as their dress before breakfast.”
A mere ten minutes — is that enough preparation for our warfare and provision for our wants; for spreading all our needs and difficulties before the Lord; for telling Jesus all that is in our hearts; for bringing before Him all the details of our work; for searching to know His mind and His will; for storing His word in our hearts; for replenishing our seed-baskets, that we may have something to sow, and getting Him to sharpen our sickles that we may reap; for confession and supplication and intercession, and, above all, for praise?
Ten minutes or a quarter of an hour! Is that enough for the many things which He has to say unto us? for the quiet teachings of His Spirit, for the dawning of His light on the dark sayings of old, and the flashing of His glory and power on the words which are spirit and life? Is that enough to spend in converse with the Friend of friends? Does this look as if we really cared very much about Him? Even if it were enough for our small, cool affection, is if enough, think you, for His great love? enough to satisfy the Heart that is waiting to commune with ours? He loves us so much that He will have us with Him forever, and we love Him so little that we did not care to turn out of bed this morning in time to have even half-an-hour of real intercourse with Him. For it would have been “with Him.” There was no doubt about His being at the tryst. He slumbered not; “He faileth not”—but we failed. What have we missed this morning! How do we know what He may have had to say to us? What have we missed all the mornings of this past year!
“But it comes to the same thing if I go up-stairs after breakfast!” Does it “come to the same thing”? You know perfectly, and by repeated experience, that it does not. Letters and newspapers have come, you stay to read them, you must just see what So-and-so says, and what the telegrams are; and then you must just attend to sundry little duties, and then somebody wants you, and then you really ought to go out, and so perhaps you never “go upstairs” at all. Or, if you do, perhaps your room is not “done,” or you are interrupted or called down. Satan is astonishingly ingenious in defeating these good after-breakfast intentions. And yet these external devices are not his strongest. Suppose you do get away after breakfast without external hindrance or interruption, he has other moves to make. Do you not find that the “things which are seen” have got the start of the “things which are not seen”? not necessarily sinful things, but simply the “other things entering in” which are “not the things which are Jesus Christ’s,” yet they choke the word, and hinder prayer. You have an unsettled feeling; you do not feel sure you will not be wanted or interrupted; it is an effort — pretty often an unsuccessful one — to forget the news, public or private, which has come by post; bits of breakfast table-talk come back to mind; voices or sounds in the now stirring household distract you; you ought, you know you ought, to be doing something else at that hour, unless, indeed, you are a drone in the home-hive, or willfully “out of work” as to the Lord’s vineyard. And so it does not “come to the same thing” at all, but you go forth ungirded to the race, unarmed to the warfare. What marvel if faintness and failure are the order of the day!
I suppose there is not one of us who has not made “good resolutions” about this, and — broken them. And this is not very surprising, considering that “good resolutions” are never mentioned in the Bible as any item of armor or weapons for “the good fight of faith.” So let us try something better.
First, Purpose. This is what we want; neither languid and lazy wishing, nor fitful and impulsive resolving, but calm and humble and steady purpose, like David’s (Psalm 17:3), Daniel’s (Daniel 1:8), and St. Paul’s (2 Timothy 3:10). Without purpose, even prayer is paralyzed, and answer prevented. Now, have we any purpose in this matter? in other words, do we really mean to do what we say we wish to do? If not, let us ask at once that the grace of purpose may be wrought in us by the Spirit of all grace.
Secondly, Prayer. Having purposed by His grace, let us ask that our purpose may, also by His grace, be carried into effect. It will not do merely to lament and pray vaguely about it. To-morrow morning will not do; the thing must be done to-night. To-night, then, tell the gracious Master all about it, tell Him of the past disloyalty and sin in this matter, so that you may go to the coming battle strong in the strength of His pardoning love and His cleansing blood, and His tenderly powerful “Go, and sin no more.” Do not make a good resolution about all the mornings of your life — His way is “morning by morning” (Isaiah 50:4), and His way is best. Ask Him to give you the grace of energy for this one coming morning, if you are spared to see it. Ask Him to give you a holy night, that you may remember Him upon your bed, and that even the half-conscious moments may be full of Him. Ask Him that when you awake you may be “still with Him,” and that He would then enable you unreluctantly to rise, eager and glad to watch with Him “one hour,” uninterrupted and quiet, “alone with Jesus.”
Even Prayer and Purpose may be neutralized by want of —
Thirdly, Self-denying Forethought. We almost make the difficulty for ourselves when we forget that we can not burn a candle at both ends. If we will sit up at night, of course we make it harder in proportion to get up in the morning. “I would give anything to be able to get this precious ‘one hour’!” says a lie-a-bed Christian, or one who really needs a long night’s sleep. No! there is one thing you will not give for it, and that is an hour of your pleasant evenings. It is too much to expect you to leave the cosy fireside, or the delightful book, or the lively circle an hour earlier, so that you may go to bed in good time, and be more ready to rise in the morning. No; you could not really be expected to include that in the “anything” you are ready to give for the true “early communion” with your Lord. And yet only try it, and see if the blessing is not a hundredfold more than the little sacrifice.
Perhaps we hardly need say that the habit of reading any ordinary book after we go up-stairs, “only just a few pages, you know,” is simply fatal to the sweet and sacred “one hour,” whether that night or next morning. Oh, let your own room at any rate be sacred to the One Blessed Guest! Do not keep Him waiting, because you “wanted just to finish a chapter” of any book but His own. Finishing one chapter too often leads to beginning another, and to filling the mind with “other things.” And then, “Dear me, I had no idea it was so late!” And, all the while, the King was waiting! What wonder that you find the audience chamber closed, when you at last put down your book!
Will not this be enough? Not quite. Not even Purpose and Prayer and Self-denying Forethought are enough without —
Fourthly, Trust. Here is the joint in the harness, the breaking-down point. Praying, and not trusting Him to answer; putting on other pieces of armor, and not covering them all with the shield of faith; asking Him to do something for us, and then not entrusting ourselves to Him to have it done for us. Distrusting one’s self is one thing; distrusting Jesus is quite another. No matter at all, nay, so much the better that you feel, “I have failed morning after morning; I am at my wits’ end; I can not summon resolution, when the moment comes, to jump up; it is no use making resolutions, I only break them again and again!” Only, do not stop there. “I can’t, but Jesus can!” will settle this, and everything else. “I can’t make myself get up, therefore—i.e., just because I can’t—I will put it into my Lord’s hands, and trust Him to make me get up. He will undertake for me even in this.” One feels humbled and ashamed to be reduced to this, and rightly enough; it proves how despicably weak we are. The apparent smallness of the trial enhances the greatness of the failure. It adds new force to “Without Me ye can do nothing,” when conscience whispers, “Exactly so! nothing! not even get out of bed at the right moment!”
But it is when we have come to this point, and see that all the strength of ourselves and our resolutions is utter weakness, that we see there is nothing for it but to say, “Jesus, I will trust Thee!” Say that to Him to-night with reference to this often lost battle. Trust, simply and really trust, Him to win it for you, and you will see that He will not disappoint your trust. He NEVER does! The secret of success is trust in Him who “faileth not,” and learning this secret in this one thing, may and should lead you to trust, and therefore to succeed, in many another battle. For—“From victory to victory His army shall be led.” But what about His suffering ones, His physically weak ones, who can not or must not rise early? How glad we are that the true reason or motive is “opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” the High-Priest who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities!” He knows these cases, and, “in some way or other, the Lord will provide”; His grace will be sufficient, and that which is spiritual loss, if arising from our own indolence, will be turned into spiritual gain if arising from His accepted chastening. I think our dear Master will see to it that these shall not be losers; He will give opportunity, and grace to take it; He can even give quietness and communion amid the mid-day surroundings. Still, unquestionably, special watchfulness and special grace are needed, when, through ill-health, the usual early hour can not be secured.
These may surely take all the comfort of His most gracious words, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They are never to be perverted into excuse for sinful indolence; and it is never to be allowed that our Lord could have spoken excusingly of that flesh figurative, which is to be crucified, mortified, reckoned dead, given no quarter whatever. But they are gracious indeed, as referring to this literal mortal flesh in which the life of Jesus is to be made manifest, the body of which He is the Saviour, the frame which He tenderly “remembereth.” Many a mistake arises from confusing these two distinct meanings of the word.
Some who are not invalids, have yet great difficulties, owing to household arrangements over which they have no control. Since these thoughts were first printed, I have received so many touching letters from younger or dependent members of Christian households, that I can not refuse to insert a loving appeal to my senior friends not to hinder any under their roofs in this most important matter. A late or uncertain hour for evening prayers is a more serious hindrance to young or delicate persons, or those who have had a busy day, than they imagine. “They do not like me to leave the room before prayers; and afterwards I am so tired that I really can’t enjoy my Bible as I wish.” If “they” only knew how the stereotyped domestic arrangements are hindering the grace of God in the heart of daughter, visitor, governess, or servant, surely, oh, surely! it would not be thought too great a sacrifice to “have prayers a little earlier.” At least, no hindrance by word, or even look, should be placed in the way of any one’s slipping away earlier in the evening, for a little time alone with Him before they are “too tired,” and returning when the bell rings for family worship. Then retiring immediately to rest, the inestimable “one hour” in the morning need not be lost through physical weariness which a little kind consideration might avoid. In this matter—
Evil is wrought by want of thought,
as well as want of heart.
Let us not forget, but remember in grateful contrast, how many there are who have to be hard at work before our earliest thoughts of rising; to whom “an hour earlier” would be a physical impossibility, the long day’s work being followed by unpeaceful evenings in the noisy dwellings of noisy alleys. No quiet for them till long after we are in our quiet rooms; the short interval between the latest sounds of drunkenness and the inexorable factory-bell being perhaps still further shortened by a long distance to walk. And no quiet corner to retire to, no possibility of kneeling “alone with Jesus,” at any time of day or night! Will not some who thus have to seek Him “in the press,” rise up in judgment against us who may have an undisturbed hour alone with Him every morning, if we will?
The following testimony is from one of England’s most successful and eminent men of business. He writes:—
“In the busy life I have lived, I owe much to the practice of very
early rising to secure the ‘hour with Jesus’ which you recommend.
Even now, I find very early rising essential to the maintenance of
spiritual life and close communion with God; and being now
somewhat weak physically, nothing but the desire for this
communion is sufficient to enable me to rise.
“My wife rises about 6, remaining in her room till 8, or she
would not, with her large household, be equal, spiritually, to her
Is not this one of the many “new leaves” which onward-pressing pilgrims should desire to turn over with the New Year? And will it not be the truest means of ensuring a Happy New Year? Happier, brighter, holier, more useful and more victorious; more radiant with His Presence and more full of His Power than any previous one.
The time past of our lives may surely suffice us for the neglect of this entirely personal and entirely precious privilege. We have suffered loss enough;—shall we not henceforth, “from this time,” seek the gain, the spiritual wealth which this “one hour” will assuredly bring? Cold mornings! well, the good Master who knoweth our frame and its natural shrinking from “His cold” knows all about them. But was there ever an added difficulty for which He could not and would not give added strength and “more grace”? So do not let us wait for the summer mornings which may never be ours to spend in earthly communion, nor even for the childish idea of making a special start on “New Year’s Day.” When we are “called” to-morrow morning, let it remind us of her who “called Mary her sister, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.” For He will certainly be there, waiting for us. What will you do? We know what Mary did. “As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.”