By T.M. Anderson
In the Month of January, 1950, I entered into a covenant of prayer with the Savior. At the time this covenant was made I was teaching in the Department of Bible at Asbury College. It was my purpose to do some writing on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and I had made plans to begin this work in January. In order to have the time to devote to my writing it was necessary for me to arise early in the morning, because my schedule of teaching began at eight o'clock. I arranged my daily work so that I could retire early in the evening, and arise about two o'clock and begin my writing.
At the beginning I realized the need of special help from the Lord; and I prayed earnestly that He would enable me to understand the Scriptures; and help me prepare a written message that would glorify Him, and enlighten His people. On January the sixth I was suddenly awakened at midnight: at the time I did not know what had aroused me so suddenly, and knowing that I had a full day of work before me, I felt it necessary to sleep a few more hours. At that moment the Savior spoke to me: He asked me if I could remain awake long enough to give Him time to talk with me in the quiet hours of the morning? He reminded me that there is a fast in denying ourselves of sleep, even as there is a fast in abstaining from food.
For five hours I waited before the Savior in holy worship and communion. My soul did greatly rejoice in His Presence, and my spirit was refreshed; and my body felt no weariness from loss of sleep.
It was during the quiet hours after midnight following the visitation of the Savior that I entered into a covenant of prayer with Him. I took account of my time spent in prayer during the average day. I felt ashamed before the Lord when I discovered how little time had been given to prayer. It had been my daily practice from the time I was converted to pray evening and morning.
The family altar was established at the beginning of my married life. In my pastorate, and in my calling to the field of evangelism, I had not failed to pray and rest my soul on the Savior. But in all of these years of ministry, I had never known the power and pleasure of prevailing prayer like it was revealed to me when I waited five delightful hours in the Presence of the Savior.
Since making this covenant of prayer, my cares and concerns of daily life rest upon my soul lighter than the clothing on my body. I have discovered the secret of casting all my cares upon Him; I have found the place of His rest. My body is often weary in His work; but my spirit knows no weariness, my soul dwells at ease, and my heart is quiet and undisturbed in a world of trouble.
There was a time when the burden of preaching was almost more than my body could stand. I was restless in the night, and would awaken with the distressing responsibility of the work hanging over me. It took sleep from my eyes, and greatly impaired my health. It is clear to me now that I had not learned the secret of rest. I was pushing and pulling in my own strength, and was not trusting to the Spirit of God to bring things to pass.
I have the same responsibilities of preaching, and have the same concern about the victory in the work of the Savior: but I have found rest unto my soul, and have learned that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.
When I entered into this covenant of prayer it was not as an experiment; it is an imperative necessity in my life. It has been a delight to my heart to meet Him at the throne of grace while the day is young. It has become a fixed habit of life to pray; I consider it to be more important than my daily bread.
I am persuaded that a covenant of prayer is the norm of spiritual living. The Psalmist yearned for the abiding place with the Lord; for he said, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he will hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock." (Psalms 27:4-5)
When I made the covenant of prayer with the Savior it was necessary for me to arrange the plans and pursuits of my personal life so that there would be no conflict with my time devoted to prayer. I discovered that the things of daily living were crowding and congesting my spiritual life, and like Martha, I was careful and troubled about many things.
The legitimate things of life are not evil, but when we permit them to master us it is wrong in the sight of the Lord. In a very real sense, I emptied myself of all earthly possessions and cares before the Lord. I took my personal interests, such as my teaching, and my preaching, and my time for a vacation, and my home, and placed them in a heap before the Savior; and I separated my heart and mind from them. I reckoned myself to be dead to all earthly things. I made a solemn promise to the Savior that I would not allow the temporal things of life to interfere with my worship and praying. I made a vow to take sufficient time to wait in His Presence, and watch with Him in prayer. I considered it to be far better to sacrifice my personal affairs, and count all things loss for Christ, rather than gain the whole world, and suffer spiritual loss to my soul.
I have adopted the words of a Psalm in my covenant of prayer. "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord: in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up." (Psalm 5:3)
It has been my practice for many months to keep the morning watch with the Savior. Some amazing results have been obtained by prevailing prayer during the silent hush of the new day. The achievements of these sacred hours spent with the Savior have exceeded my greatest expectations.
I know that I have not fathomed the depth of God's infinite goodness made available by prayer; neither have I explored the vast reaches of His mercy disclosed in the promises of answered prayer.
It is not my purpose to overlook the necessity of praying at all times. The Psalmist said, "Evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud." (Psalm 55:17) However I do not believe it is possible to place too much emphasis upon the value of praying in the still hours of the morning. The Savior evidently made this a practice of His life, for it is recorded, "In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (Mark 1:35)
The hours between midnight and six o'clock in the morning are the most peaceful hours of the entire day. The duties and distractions of the preceding day have ended, and the cares and burdens of the new day have not begun. If one has retired at a reasonable time; and the body has rested for a few hours, and the mind has been cleared and relieved of the confusions of the day, then he can prevail with God in prayer, as at no other time.
I find the most practical time of the morning is from three o'clock to five. If one cannot spend but thirty minutes in prayer, I suggest that four o'clock be the chosen hour to meet God. To put off praying until a later time, one will often be hindered by the labors and engagements of the new day.