George Herbert on Prayer (10)
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Psalm 33.1
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
One of the many benefits of learning to pray the psalms is that we quickly discover that God invites us to bring all our emotions into the prayer closet, and to cast them up to Him in prayer.
God, we remember, is the Author of the psalms, which He has given to His people as guides and even scripts for their prayers. The psalmists come to God with a wide range of emotions: fear, trouble, anger, joy, peace – the whole gamut. Their example and teaching in prayer invite and encourage us to do so as well.
So when George Herbert likens prayer to “Reversed thunder,” I think I have a sense what he means. During a storm thunder tends to excite our passions, to touch us deeply with feelings of wonder, awe, excitement, foreboding, and perhaps even fear. Thunder in Scripture is often likened to God’s speaking to us. On one occasion, when God spoke a word of approval of His Son, some said it thundered.
God invites us to “thunder” back to Him – hollering out, raging, swelling with various passions, shouting for joy, putting the whole soul on display to the Lord in the words we offer to Him. How unlike many of the prayers we hear from ourselves or our fellow believers! Our prayers are mostly pretty straightforward and without passion, almost like we’re not really feeling anything as we talk to Creator and Lord of the vast cosmos and the Savior of our souls.
How can we not be excited, and, knowing that He gladly welcomes and receives us in all our jumble of dumb ideas, wild emotions, and silly propositions, how can we not excitedly pour out our souls to the Lord in prayer?
Perhaps we need a bit of lightning? Thunder, as you know, follows the lightning. A strike of lightning, and the sound of it, piercing the heavens as passionate thunder, comes shortly on its heels.
Perhaps if we felt more of the lightning of God flashing through our souls, our own prayers would reverberate back to Him like “reversed thunder” – filled with power, passion, and praise to our glorious God and King.
George Herbert, at least, seemed to think so.
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.
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