Holy Are The Prayers

Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his
heart, and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his
face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that
cometh according to the multitude of his idols. Ezekiel xiv. 4.

~The Rev. John Keble


STATELY thy walls, and holy are the prayers
Which day and night before thine altars rise:
Not statelier, towering o’er her marble stairs,
Flashed Sion’s gilded dome to summer skies,
Not holier, while around him angels bowed,
From Aaron’s censer steamed the spicy cloud,

Before the mercy-seat. O Mother dear,
Wilt thou forgive thy son one boding sigh?
Forgive, if round thy towers he walk in fear,
And tell thy jewels o’er with jealous eye?
Mindful of that sad vision, which in thought
From Chebar’s plains the captive prophet brought.

To see lost Sion’s shame. ’Twas morning prime,
And like a Queen new seated on her throne,
GOD’S crownèd mountain, as in happier time,
Seemed to rejoice in sunshine all her own:
So bright, while all in shade around her lay,
Her northern pinnacles had caught th’ emerging ray.

The dazzling lines of her majestic roof
Crossed with as free a span the vault of heaven,
As when twelve tribes knelt silently aloof
Ere GOD His answer to their king had given,
Ere yet upon the new-built altar fell
The glory of the LORD, the Lord of Israel.

All seems the same: but enter in and see
What idol shapes are on the wall portrayed:
And watch their shameless and unholy glee,
Who worship there in Aaron’s robes arrayed:
Hear Judah’s maids the dirge to Thammuz pour,
And mark her chiefs yon orient sun adore.

Yet turn thee, son of man—for worse than these
Thou must behold: thy loathing were but lost
On dead men’s crimes, and Jews’ idolatries—
Come, learn to tell aright thine own sins’ cost,—
And sure their sin as far from equals thine,
As earthly hopes abused are less than hopes divine.

What if within His world, His Church, our LORD
Have entered thee, as in some temple gate,
Where, looking round, each glance might thee afford
Some glorious earnest of thine high estate,
And thou, false heart and frail, hast turned from all
To worship pleasure’s shadow on the wall?

If, when the LORD of Glory was in sight,
Thou turn thy back upon that fountain clear,
To bow before the “little drop of light,”
Which dim-eyed men call praise and glory here;
What dost thou, but adore the sun, and scorn
Him at whose only word both sun and stars were born?

If, while around thee gales from Eden breathe,
Thou hide thine eyes, to make thy peevish moan
Over some broken reed of earth beneath,
Some darling of blind fancy dead and gone,
As wisely might’st thou in JEHOVAH’S fane
Offer thy love and tears to Thammuz slain.

Turn thee from these, or dare not to inquire
Of Him whose name is Jealous, lest in wrath
He hear and answer thine unblest desire:
Far better we should cross His lightning’s path
Than be according to our idols beard,
And God should take us at our own vain word.

Thou who hast deigned the Christian’s heart to call
Thy Church and Shrine; whene’er our rebel will
Would in that chosen home of Thine instal
Belial or Mammon, grant us not the ill
We blindly ask; in very love refuse
Whate’er Thou knowest our weakness would abuse.

Or rather help us, LORD, to choose the good,
To pray for nought, to seek to none, but Thee,
Nor by “our daily bread” mean common food,
Nor say, “From this world’s evil set us free;”
Teach us to love, with CHRIST, our sole true bliss,
Else, though in CHRIST’S own words, we surely pray amiss.