Spirit of Prayer

Readings and resources in the Spirit of Prayer—
Communing with God, others and self

John Donne Page

Thoughts on Some Writings

1. A Holy Sonnet

The writings of John Donne appeal to me most strongly in an emotional way. Although he was very strong intellectually, the power of his poetry transcends reason, going straight to the heart. In this "Holy Sonnet" he reveals his spiritual struggle to us, describing the war in his soul. He carries us along with him in this psalm-like prayer as he escalates the symbolic intensity, culminating in a last couplet as memorable as it is paradoxical.

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne, 1633.

2. No Man is an Island

Donne's most widely known passage is this meditation upon the sickness and death of a neighbor. I turned to it for comfort, inspiration and exhortation on the Friday following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. As I watched the memorial service broadcast from the National Cathedral in Washington, the tolling of the bells impressed it upon my heart.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security. From "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions", Part XVII, Meditation.

3. Benediction from "Death's Duel

Photo by Jim Trombly
This benediction (or "good saying") shot like an arrow into my soul the first time I read it. Because it closed the last sermon he ever preached before his final sickness and death, it became the benediction of the message that represented his very life. The admonitions contained in it may be graphic and repulsive to the ears of some, but to me they invite the hearer to a spiritual reality that is beyond metaphor and simile, deeper than intellect and emotion. John Donne invites us into the very Kingdom of God and not only that, he invites us to enter through the door: the Son of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ crucified.

There we leave you in that blessed dependency, to hang upon him that hangs upon the cross, there bathe in his tears, there suck at his wounds, and lie down in peace in his grave, till he vouchsafe you a resurrection, and an ascension into that kingdom which He hath prepared for you with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood. Amen.

I hope you enjoyed my comments. I am indebted to my good friend Rob Frazier for some helpful editing. God bless you as you continue your search.

Find more of John Donne's poetry and writings at:
Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Copyright: © 2002 Joseph Perry, Greyfort Publishing
Spirit of Prayer Homepage
about the Spirit of Prayer

New Hardcover Edition of Thomas Traherne's Centuries of Meditations:

Old Studies:
The Spirit of Prayer
William Law
The Soul of Prayer
P.T. Forsythe
Centuries of Meditations
Thomas Traherne
Spirit of Prayer
James Buchanan

New Studies
God Squanders His Love
The Prayer of Paul
Stephen Mansfield
The Armor of God
a Friend
Quotes About Prayer
Karyn Henley
Poem: Nick Kalfas
A Father's Thoughts
Steve Compton
John Donne Page
by the webmaster
by the webmaster

Open Source Love
Love Life Word Work

Other Sites:
Spirit of Love
Prayers for Special Help
Running Empty
Grain of Wheat
The Weavers Web Site
Fellowship in Missions

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
Zechariah 12:9-11

What we offer is drawn from us by what He offers. Our self-oblation stands on His; and the spirit of prayer flows from the gift of the Holy Ghost, the great Intercessor.
Peter Taylor Forsyth

My Personal Pages
Favorite Books
Contact me.

Spirit of Prayer HomeContact the webmaster