John Donne: Prayer


John Donne

O ETERNAL and most gracious God, who art able to make, and dost make, the sick bed of thy servants chapels of ease to them, and the dreams of thy servants prayers and meditations upon thee, let not this continual watchfulness of mine, this inability to sleep, which thou hast laid upon me, be any disquiet or discomfort to me, but rather an argument, that thou wouldst not have me sleep in thy presence. What it may indicate or signify concerning the state of my body, let them consider to whom that consideration belongs; do thou, who only art the Physician of my soul, tell her, that thou wilt afford her such defensatives, as that she shall wake ever towards thee, and yet ever sleep in thee, and that, through all this sickness, thou wilt either preserve mine understanding from all decays and distractions which these watchings might occasion, or that thou wilt reckon and account with me from before those violences, and not call any piece of my sickness a sin.

It is a heavy and indelible sin that I brought into the world with me; it is a heavy and innumerable multitude of sins which I have heaped up since; I have sinned behind thy back (if that can be done), by wilful abstaining from thy congregations and omitting thy service, and I have sinned before thy face, in my hypocrisies in prayer, in my ostentation, and the mingling a respect of myself in preaching thy word; I have sinned in my fasting, by repining when a penurious fortune hath kept me low; and I have sinned even in that fulness, when I have been at thy table, by a negligent examination, by a wilful prevarication, in receiving that heavenly food and physic.

But as I know, O my gracious God, that for all those sins committed since, yet thou wilt consider me, as I was in thy purpose when thou wrotest my name in the book of life in mine election; so into what deviations soever I stray and wander by occasion of this sickness, O God, return thou to that minute wherein thou wast pleased with me and consider me in that condition.

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