Ah dearest Lord! I cannot pray,

My fancy is not free;

Unmannerly distractions come,

And force my thoughts from Thee.

The world that looks so dull all day

Glows bright on me at prayer,

And plans that ask no thought but then

Wake up and meet me there.

All nature one full fountain seems

Of dreamy sight and sound,

Which, when I kneel, breaks up its deeps,

And makes a deluge round.

Old voices murmur in my ear,

New hopes start to life,

And past and future gaily blend

In one bewitching strife.

My very flesh has restless fits;

My changeful limbs conspire

With all these phantoms of the mind

My inner self to tire.

I cannot pray; yet, Lord! Thou knowst

The pain it is to me

To have my vainly struggling thoughts

Thus torn away from Thee.

Sweet Jesus! teach me how to prize

These tedious hours when I,

Foolish and mute before Thy Face,

In helpless worship lie.

Prayer was not meant for luxury,

Or selfish pastime sweet;

It is the prostrate creature’s place

At his Creator’s Feet.

Had I, dear Lord! no pleasure found

But in the thought of Thee,

Prayer would have come unsought, and been

A truer liberty.

Yet Thou art oft most present, Lord!

In weak distracted prayer:

A sinner out of heart with self

Most often finds Thee there.

For prayer that humbles sets the soul

From all illusions free,

And teaches it how utterly,

Dear Lord! it hangs on Thee.

The heart, that on self-sacrifice

Is covetously bent,

Will bless Thy chastening hand that makes

Its prayer its punishment.

My Saviour! why should I complain

And why fear aught but sin?

Distractions are but outward things;

Thy peace dwells far within.

These surface-troubles come and go,

Like rufflings of the sea;

The deeper depth is out of reach

To all, my God, but Thee.

Frederick William Faber, 1814-1863