George Herbert on Prayer (17)
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6.17
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
Prayer takes time. We all know that. In fact, it’s because so many of us either have the wrong priorities or are bad managers of our time that we seem to have so little of it for prayer. “If only I had more time!” we exclaim. But if we’re not using our time for prayer now, having more time available would not solve the problem.
In a very real sense, however, prayer takes us beyond time even as it takes up time. The time we invest in prayer enables us to draw back the veil that separates the material and spiritual worlds, and brings us into the very presence of the Lord, where we have been seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2.6). The more we pray, and the more of our time that can be taken up in prayer, the more we will, like Elisha, actually live beyond that veil, realizing the promise and power of “then and there” in our “here and now.”
In another sense, prayer allows us to range through all the work of our Lord Jesus Christ and to seek out applications of Jesus’ example and teaching for all aspects of our lives. In the Church calendar “ordinary” time refers to those periods of the year not taken up with Advent and Lent-Easter. These two seasons focus on the Incarnation and Passion of Christ. During “ordinary time” readings, prayers, and teachings bring the whole life, work, and example of Christ to bear on all of life, so that we learn how to follow Jesus in our own “here and now.”
Prayer is thus heaven brought down to daily living. In prayer we meet Jesus and come to know Him working in every facet and detail of our lives. We learn to experience Him with us where we are; yet we also to commune with Him where He is, beyond the veil, enthroned in glory, inviting our fellowship through the veil-parting medium of prayer.
Prayer takes time, it’s true. But prayer takes us beyond time and allows us to bring the power of eternity into all the time of our lives. Prayer is truly “heaven in ordinary” – the reality of the unseen realm and our sovereign King in the day-to-day exigencies and opportunities of our mundane experience.
Make time for prayer, and your time will have more heavenly significance and power.
Next steps: As you pray today, imagine the parting of the veil that Elisha’s servant saw. What do you see beyond time, in the eternal throne room of our Lord? Pray from that vantage point. Then share your experience with a Christian friend.