Overcome with this image of prayer from George MacDonald’s brilliant and bewildering 1895 romance, Lilith:
Some people are always at their prayers.—Look! look! There goes one!”
He pointed right up into the air. A snow-white pigeon was mounting, with quick and yet quicker wing-flap, the unseen spiral of an ethereal stair. The sunshine flashed quivering from its wings.
“I see a pigeon!” I said.
“Of course you see a pigeon,” rejoined the raven, “for there is the pigeon! I see a prayer on its way…”
…”How can a pigeon be a prayer?” I said. “I understand, of course, how it should be a fit symbol or likeness for one; but a live pigeon to come out of a heart!”
“It must puzzle you! It cannot fail to do so!”
“A prayer is a thought, a thing spiritual!” I pursued.
“Very true! But if you understood any world besides your own, you would understand your own much better.—When a heart is really alive, then it is able to think live things. There is one heart all whose thoughts are strong, happy creatures, and whose very dreams are lives. When some pray, they lift heavy thoughts from the ground, only to drop them on it again; others send up their prayers in living shapes, this or that, the nearest likeness to each. All live things were thoughts to begin with, and are fit therefore to be used by those that think. When one says to the great Thinker:—’Here is one of thy thoughts: I am thinking it now!’ that is a prayer—a word to the big heart from one of its own little hearts.—Look, there is another!”
This time the raven pointed his beak downward—to something at the foot of a block of granite. I looked, and saw a little flower. I had never seen one like it before, and cannot utter the feeling it woke in me by its gracious, trusting form, its colour, and its odour as of a new world that was yet the old. I can only say that it suggested an anemone, was of a pale rose-hue, and had a golden heart.
“That is a prayer-flower,” said the raven.
“I never saw such a flower before!” I rejoined.
“There is no other such. Not one prayer-flower is ever quite like another,” he returned.
“How do you know it a prayer-flower?” I asked.
“By the expression of it,” he answered. “More than that I cannot tell you. If you know it, you know it; if you do not, you do not.”
…But I did see that the flower was different from any flower I had ever seen before; therefore I knew that I must be seeing a shadow of the prayer in it; and a great awe came over me to think of the heart listening to the flower.
from Lilith, by George MacDonald,1895
text compliments of Project Gutenberg