Prayer Before Meal, 1660
A Prayer, John Donne
O ETERNAL and most gracious God, who, though thou have reserved thy treasure of perfect joy and perfect glory to be given by thine own hands then, when, by seeing thee as thou art in thyself, and knowing thee as we are known, we shall possess in an instant, and possess for ever, all that can any way conduce to our happiness, yet here also, in this world, givest us such earnests of that full payment, as by the value of the earnest we may give some estimate of the treasure, humbly and thankfully I acknowledge, that thy blessed Spirit instructs me to make a difference of thy blessings in this world, by that difference of the instruments by which it hath pleased thee to derive them unto me.
As we see thee here in a glass, so we receive from thee here by reflection and by instruments. Even casual things come from thee; and that which we call fortune here hath another name above. Nature reaches out her hand and gives us corn, and wine, and oil, and milk; but thou fillest her hand before, and thou openest her hand that she may rain down her showers upon us. Industry reaches out her hand to us and gives us fruits of our labour for ourselves and our posterity; but thy hand guides that hand when it sows and when it waters, and the increase is from thee. Friends reach out their hands and prefer us; but thy hand supports that hand that supports us. Of all these thy instruments have I received thy blessing, O God; but bless thy name most for the greatest; that, as a member of the public, and as a partaker of private favours too, by thy right hand, thy powerful hand set over us, I have had my portion not only in the hearing, but in the preaching of thy Gospel.
Humbly beseeching thee, that as thou continuest thy wonted goodness upon the whole world by the wonted means and instruments, the same sun and moon, the same nature and industry, so to continue the same blessings upon this state and this church by the same hand, so long as that thy Son, when he comes in the clouds, may find him, or his son, or his son’s sons ready to give an account and able to stand in that judgment, for their faithful stewardship and dispensation of thy talents so abundantly committed to them; and be to him, O God, in all distempers of his body, in all anxieties of spirit, in all holy sadnesses of soul, such a physician in thy proportion, who are the greatest in heaven, as he hath been in soul and body to me, in his proportion, who is the greatest upon earth.