George Herbert on Prayer (16)
As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42.1, 2
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
In 1919 the Irish poet William Butler Yeats lamented a world gone mad with violence, greed, and war. It was a world in which “the worst” of men were “filled with passionate intensity.” Meanwhile, “the best” of men lacked “all conviction”. Whatever it was that made them “the best” of men, they didn’t feel sufficiently passionate about it to stake their lives on it. Evil was on the rise. Corruption and death were everywhere, and those who might have been able to do something about it were yawning away on the couch.
“The best.” Who are “the best” of men and women today? Surely those who know Jesus Christ and have laid their lives down for Him, are devoted to loving and serving Him by loving and serving their neighbors – surely these are “the best” we might expect to find in our day?
George Herbert would have agreed. And in his view, part of what makes people “the best” is what makes them glad, what they rejoice to do, what they long and hanker for with every ounce of their being. For him, prayer was “the gladness of the best,” the thing which truly good and decent and loving people love to do more than anything. They are like thirsting deer, panting for the refreshing waters of the brook. Continuously on their minds is the thought, “How much longer will it be before I can snatch a few moments in the presence of my God?”
Prayer is one of the defining attributes of “the best” of people. It certainly was a defining attribute of our Lord Jesus Christ, and no one was ever better than He. He is above all The Best, and He was a man devoted to prayer. If we would be like Him, would see Jesus increasing in us – if we would be like Him “the best” people of our day – then we must take more joy in prayer. Prayer brings us into the presence of our King and Savior, where are fullness of joy and pleasures forever more (Ps. 16.11). Who would not be glad to be there?
When we understand prayer fully, and practice it diligently, as George Herbert did, then perhaps we will thirst for God and pant after His presence. Perhaps we will set aside times throughout the day to slake our thirst for God at the fountains and brooks of prayer.
If we will, we will become like The Best of all men, and He will form us into people more like Him.
In our day again, the worst of men seem to be filled with passionate intensity. Where are the best of men and women? Do we lack the conviction to seek the Lord in prayer? Are we too settled in our ways? Too comfortable in this easy life of faith?
And will we be left to lament the corruption and violence and wickedness of our day because we did not learn the value of prayer?
Consider: Memorize Psalm 42.1, 2. Talk with a Christian friend about how you might help one another to practice prayer as “the gladness of the best” in a world that desperately needs an awakening of the power of God.
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.
Gladness of the Best
- T.M. Moore
- September 24, 2013
What makes us truly glad?
George Herbert on Prayer (16)