George Herbert on Prayer (15)
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4.6, 7
Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
- George Herbert
The people of Israel, redeemed from Egypt, fretted and fussed about what they would do now. Dragged out (as they saw it) to the barren wilderness, how would they survive? Who would feed them? Where would they find their daily sustenance?
In His abundant grace the Lord provided the daily supply of manna, a wafer-like substance which appeared like the morning dew and sustained the people for forty long years in the wilderness. Oh they had other food from time to time, but manna was the staple of their diets. And even though we don’t really know what this manna was (“manna” means something like, “What is it?”), we can see that God faithfully provided for His people by this mysterious cuisine, every day, as much as they needed.
George Herbert seems to have thought that prayer was like manna. It’s there for us, every day, and as much as we need. Instead of fretting, fuming, and fussing about everything that’s not the way we think it should be in life, why not wander out to where God has provided a daily offering sufficient for all our needs? The Israelites gathered manna, and they flourished. We go to prayer, and we find there the peace of God – the peace which is the very Lord Himself! And when we meet God in prayer, when we see His beauty, remember all His grace and mercy toward us, and are caught up in His glory, then peace and joy fill us which we can’t really understand or explain, but which we know is true nonetheless.
Prayer is the believer’s daily manna, exalted – as Herbert put it – when, partaken of, it lifts our souls to heaven and enables us to partake of God Himself. Prayer fills and renews our souls, flooding us with a sense of peace and wellbeing, in just the same way that manna filled the bodily needs and assuaged the anxieties of the people of Israel.
So whenever anxiety begins to arise, rather than fear or fume, let us head to the manna fields and feed on the presence of our exalted God and King. It’s always there, every day, and just as much as you might need.
Consider: When are some times of the day when you particularly begin to feel troubled or anxious? How might prayer, at just those moments, allow you to know the peace of God? Talk about these questions with a Christian friend.
T. M.’s books on prayer include God’s Prayer Program, a guide to learning how to pray the psalms; The Psalms for Prayer, in which all the psalms are set up to guide you in how to pray them; and If Men Will Pray, a serious attempt to call men of faith to greater diligence in prayer. Follow the links provided here to purchase these from our online store.