Communion With God in the Vesper Hour

Communion With God in the Vesper Hour

The true vesper hour is a prayer service. It is a short hour when the seeking heart comes in search of God.

By E. L. PINGENOT, Pastor, Nashville, Tennesse

'The true vesper hour is a prayer service. It is a short hour when the seeking heart comes in search of God. It feeds the hungry soul and strengthens the discouraged one. It is comfort to the sorrowing and gently leads the erring. It can do all these things, because it leads men to quietly lean on God, to depend on Him for all things. For the primary purpose of the ves­per hour is to make our people God conscious in their own thinking and in their own hearts. Vespers emphasize the individual's personal relation with a personal and living God.

The first vesper service was held in a garden, on that first Sabbath in the dawn of a new world, new from the hand of the Creator. The sound of the wind's moving in the trees formed the orchestral accompaniment for the choral music—the evening songs of the birds as they settled for rest. In this quiet and restful place, the Scriptures tell us, God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. They enjoyed open communion, or face to face com­munion, with their Maker. They talked with God, and God talked with them. But after their sin they could no longer commune directly with God. Then God spoke to them through Christ and the angels.

Centuries later this direct communion with God was re-established by Christ at His bap­tism, as He prayed His Father to accept hu­manity in Him. The angels had never before listened to such a prayer. (See The Desire of Ages, p. 112.) They were anxious to bring.the answer to Jesus, but that prayer was answered by God Himself. That prayer and its answer on the banks of the Jordan that day were the most important moments in history, since the fall of man. At that moment direct communion was reestablished between God and man. That mo­ment "tells us of the power of prayer,—how the human voice may reach the ear of God, and our petitions find acceptance in the courts of heaven."—Ibid., p. 113. This is the purpose of the vesper hour—to teach God's people that He will answer all their questionings if they will but learn to hear His voice.

To develop the right atmosphere for this service, use various agencies. God speaks to the mind through the eye, through the ear, and through the Holy Spirit. First, the church in­terior must be conducive to quiet and worship. It need not be elaborate or costly, but it must be clean and neat. The tabernacle in the wil­derness and Solomon's Temple were patterns of beauty. Our God, who made all things beau­tiful, surely desires a place of worship worthy of Him. I think of a small chapel created out of one of our usual meeting places by a young man now in the interior of Africa. I'm very sure that if all he has in which to worship is a native hut, that hut will be worthy.

The church in which we worship must help create the atmosphere of worship. Perhaps the greatest handicap to true worship is confusion, and we find too much of it in our churches. Too many of our churches resemble a social club on Sabbath morning rather than a meeting place with God. One small church, seeking this at­mosphere of quiet which is so essential in wor­ship, placed this sign where all could see: "If you must whisper, whisper a prayer." If our members could be taught that they come to church to visit God and to learn of Him, our services would be revolutionized. Vespers can do much in teaching our people reverence in the house of God.

God speaks to His people through the ear in beautiful music and inspirational poetry. In times past many of our smaller churches were hampered in attempting vesper services, in that they did not have an organ or a stringed instru­ment group, or were lacking in musical talent. The only source of music in many churches is a piano, not too well tuned, and the voices of the people. Today, through the record player the best in religious music is open to our small groups. In this way our people can learn good music, and through careful listening to that which is beautiful develop a sense of quietness in the house of God. In training the ear to ap­preciate good music, start with the simple hymns which are familiar, and which speak to the heart. Through this method any young min­ister can bring good music into his vesper serv­ice and greatly improve the order in all his services.

Through poetry God speaks to the mind and heart, for poetry is music in words. It says the things we would, if we could. It touches the heart when a sermon fails. Who among us does not have a favorite bit of poetry, which speaks an experience in his life? Who among us has not found solace in poetry, whether it be the psalms of the Bible or other verse, which met his need at some time?

There is a present-day poet who has brought great blessing to millions through her poetry. Her spiritual perception has grown out of years of dependence upon God in times of great need. Her poems have a wide appeal because she "touches the common things and common hopes with a new beauty and with the love of God." Her name is Grace Noll Crowell; her publishers, Harper and Brothers. The price of most of the volumes is one dollar, with a new book every year. There are many volumes of reli­gious poetry, of the world's great religious verse, but one of your best sources will be the people themselves. Encourage them to bring you their favorite poems, and you will soon have a collection of heartthrobs.

And God speaks through the Holy Spirit to those who hear His voice. In an atmosphere of quiet and beauty, in one whose heart has been touched and made tender through music and poetry, the still, small voice comes with just the message needed. How many hearts have been helped in this quiet hour, only God knows. "The better part of prayer is meditation,"—sitting still and listening for the voice of God. This little poem by Sara Nichols Guild says it so well:

"Prayer is so simple

It is like quietly opening a door

And slipping into the very presence of God,

There in the stillness

To listen for His voice

Perhaps to petition

Or only to listen;

It matters not ; just to be there,

In His Presence,

Is prayer."

The vesper service may be held Sabbath afternoons, but it is effective as a sundown service, either Friday evening or especially at the close of the Sabbath. The activities of the morning service are over. You now enter a service in which there are no announcements and no offering is taken. There is no unneces­sary movement. Even the hymns are sung quietly without the congregation rising. There is no talking, no whispering, no visiting. Those who come, come quietly, and sit quietly. They are learning to listen for the voice of God.

The theme of the vesper hour may be used to supplement the morning sermon, to impress the lesson in a different way. In the stillness, without the many distractions of the morning service, it is easy to impress the theme of the morning on the minds of the listeners. In the morning God meets with the group ; in vespers God meets with the individual. For the only purpose of this service is to lead those present nearer to their God, that they might learn to find their help and strength in Him.

Surely it is not strange, then, that any min­ister who really develops the vesper idea finds his whole life and program uplifted. You can­not meet with God and commune with Him and not find strength and wisdom. He will point out all the things you ought to do, the man you ought to be.

"Could'st thou in vision see

Thyself the man God meant,

Thou never more could'st be

The man thou art—content."

—Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 517.

For the spiritual healing of your people lead them into the beauty and strength of weekly vespers. The vesper service is dedicated :

"To all who are strong and seek His consecration, To all who are spent and seek His renewal, To all who are suffering and seek His release, To all who are disheartened and seek His cheer, To all who are tired and seek His rest, To all who are adrift and seek His friendship, To all who are confused and seek his guidance."-DEAN GRESHAM, Wings of Healing, p. 7.

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By E. L. PINGENOT, Pastor, Nashville, Tennesse

July 1949

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