John Donne: Prayer


John Donne

O MOST mighty and most merciful God, who art so the God of health and strength, as that without thee all health is but the fuel, and all strength but the bellows of sin; behold me under the vehemence of two diseases, and under the necessity of two physicians, authorized by thee, the bodily, and the spiritual physician. I come to both as to thine ordinance, and bless and glorify thy name that, in both cases, thou hast afforded help to man by the ministry of man.

Even in the new Jerusalem, in heaven itself, it hath pleased thee to discover a tree, which is “a tree of life there, but the leaves thereof are for the healing of the nations.” [Rev. 22:2] Life itself is with thee there, for thou art life; and all kinds of health, wrought upon us here by thine instruments, descend from thence.

Thou wouldst have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. [Jer. 51:9]

Take from me, O Lord, her perverseness, her wilfulness, her refractoriness, and hear thy Spirit saying in my soul: Heal me, O Lord, for I would be healed.

Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound; then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb, yet could not he heal you, nor cure you of your wound. [Hosea 5:13]

Keep me back, O Lord, from them who misprofess arts of healing the soul, or of the body, by means not imprinted by thee in the church for the soul, or not in nature for the body. There is no spiritual health to be had by superstition, nor bodily by witchcraft; thou, Lord, and only thou, art Lord of both. Thou in thyself art Lord of both, and thou in thy Son art the physician, the applier of both.

With his stripes we are healed,” [Is. 53:5] says the prophet there; there, before he was scourged, we were healed with his stripes; how much more shall I be healed now, now when that which he hath already suffered actually is actually and effectually applied to me? Is there any thing incurable, upon which that balm drops? Any vein so empty as that that blood cannot fill it?

Thou promisest to heal the earth, [2 Chron. 7:14] but it is when the inhabitants of the earth “pray that thou wouldst heal it.” Thou promisest to heal their waters, but “their miry places and standing waters,” thou sayest there, “thou wilt not heal.” [Ezek. 47:11] My returning to any sin, if I should return to the ability of sinning over all my sins again, thou wouldst not pardon. Heal this earth, O my God, by repentant tears, and heal these waters, these tears, from all bitterness, from all diffidence, from all dejection, by establishing my irremovable assurance in thee.

Thy Son went about healing all manner of sickness. [Matt. 4:23] (No disease incurable, none difficult; he healed them in passing).

Virtue went out of him, and he healed all, [Luke 6:19] all the multitude (no person incurable), he healed them every whit [John 7:23] (as himself speaks), he left no relics of the disease; and will this universal physician pass by this hospital, and not visit me? not heal me? not heal me wholly?

Lord, I look not that thou shouldst say by thy messenger to me, as to Hezekiah, “Behold, I will heal thee, and on the third day thou shalt go up to the house of the Lord.” [2 Kings 20:5] I look not that thou shouldst say to me, as to Moses in Miriam's behalf, when Moses would have had her healed presently, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not have been ashamed seven days? Let her be shut up seven days, and then return;” [Num. 12:14] but if thou be pleased to multiply seven days (and seven is infinite) by the number of my sins (and that is more infinite), if this day must remove me till days shall be no more, seal to me my spiritual health, in affording me the seals of thy church; and for my temporal health, prosper thine ordinance, in their hands who shall assist in this sickness, in that manner, and in that measure, as may most glorify thee, and most edify those who observe the issues of thy servants, to their own spiritual benefit.