Prayer (I)

Prayer (I) Themes

The Nature of Prayer

The poem “Prayer (I)” seeks chiefly to describe the nature of prayer. The poem simply lists attributes that apply to prayer, without including a verb (such as “prayer is…”), and this ambiguity opens the poem out to reflect not just on what prayer is, but also on what it does—what effect it has. Indeed, the poem implies that prayer is beyond definition. It is something that is essential to the life of the Christian church, and to the life of the individual human soul, but it is also so much more: it reveals the correspondences between heaven and earth, between God and mankind. As such, it is an essential tool for understanding man’s place in the universe.

The Nourishment of the Soul

This poem is not just about prayer; it also functions as a prayer. What, then, is the speaker praying for? In this poem, there are several hints. Prayer is “manna,” that is to say, it nourishes. In addition, it is “the soul’s blood,” the very life force that keeps the spiritual body alive. Seeking to define prayer in this poem, then, is a kind of prayer in and of itself, an attempt to seek out spiritual nourishment.