John Donne: Prayer


John Donne

O ETERNAL and most gracious God, who gavest to thy servants in the wilderness thy manna, bread so conditioned, qualified so, as that to every man manna tasted like that which that man liked best, I humbly beseech thee to make this correction, which I acknowledge to be part of my daily bread, to taste so to me, not as I would but as thou wouldst have it taste, and to conform my taste, and make it agreeable to thy will. Thou wouldst have thy corrections taste of humiliation, but thou wouldst have them taste of consolation too; taste of danger, but taste of assurance too.

As therefore thou hast imprinted in all thine elements of which our bodies consist two manifest qualities, so that as thy fire dries, so it heats too; and as thy water moists, so it cools too; so, O Lord, in these corrections which are the elements of our regeneration, by which our souls are made thine, imprint thy two qualities, those two operations, that, as they scourge us, they may scourge us into the way to thee; that when they have showed us that we are nothing in ourselves, they may also show us, that thou art all things unto us.

When therefore in this particular circumstance, O Lord (but none of thy judgments are circumstances, they are all of all substance of thy good purpose upon us), when in this particular, that he whom thou hast sent to assist me, desires assistants to him, thou hast let me see in how few hours thou canst throw me beyond the help of man, let me by the same light see that no vehemence of sickness, no temptation of Satan, no guiltiness of sin, no prison of death, not this first, this sick bed, not the other prison, the close and dark grave, can remove me from the determined and good purpose which thou hast sealed concerning me.

Let me think no degree of this thy correction casual, or without signification, but yet when I have read it in that language, as a correction, let me translate it into another, and read it as a mercy; and which of these is the original, and which is the translation; whether thy mercy or thy correction were thy primary and original intention in this sickness, I cannot conclude, though death conclude me; for as it must necessarily appear to be a correction, so I can have no greater argument of thy mercy, than to die in thee and by that death to be united to him who died for me.