George Herbert on Prayer (18)
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 14.13
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
Augustine of Hippo was the greatest Christian thinker of the late 4th/early 5th century. His works have been read and treasured by every generation of the followers of Jesus Christ. Formerly a philosopher and teacher, and a libertine nominal Christian, Augustine reached a crisis in his life when nothing seemed to matter, and nothing made any sense.
His faithful mother, Monica, had prayed for him all his wayward life. She continued to be a faithful and loving mother and witness as her son struggled through his doubts to find his way to the life of faith. Augustine’s crisis came to head and resolution in a garden one day, as his eyes fell on the text from Romans cited above. Augustine was not comfortable thinking about a relationship with God because he knew that, for years, he had been living in a way that was not acceptable to the Deity. And he didn’t know what to do about it, how to put it all behind him, or how to keep God from seeing him for what he really was.
Then the answer came: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He realized he didn’t have to “show up” before the Father in the filthy rags of his wayward life. He could put on Jesus and be right at home among the best dressed folk in the courts of heaven. So he did, with great tears of rejoicing, and the rest, as they say, is history.
George Herbert considered that a man at prayer is in his best outfit before the Father. Prayer is “man best drest,” in the finest garb and clothing any of us could ever expect to wear before the God of glory. And why is this? Because to be in prayer, doing what is the continuous work of Jesus as He intercedes for us in heaven (Heb. 7.25), is nothing other than to be clothed with Jesus Christ. In prayer we are doing what Jesus does, in the power Jesus provides, and in the kind of communion with the Father that Jesus enjoys without interruption in the heavenly places.
We don’t have to “clean up our act” to come before the Father in prayer. Many of the psalms bear ample testimony to this. We just need to come to prayer, where we will “put on Jesus” and be as well-dressed as we possibly can be. In prayer our Father sees us as in His beloved Son, imitating Him, abiding in Him, following and obeying Him. The love He bears for Jesus falls around and upon us, who come before Him clothed in the very Son of God. In prayer, because we are clothed in Jesus, the Father hears us and sifts our praises and requests through the finished work of our ever-interceding King and Savior.
We are never more like Jesus than when we are communing intimately, honestly, and worshipfully, in prayer with our heavenly Father. Prayer is truly “man best drest.”
Don’t worry about cleaning up your life before you come to the Father in prayer. Just come, and put on Jesus, and know that, in Him, your prayers will be welcomed for His sake by Your Father in heaven.
Next steps: How much do you know about the prayers of Jesus? Meditate on John 17. Can you see Him praying for you in this prayer? What can you learn from this prayer to improve your own communion with the Father?
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.