The Power of Pictures

David Bast

Read: Hosea 12:10

I have . . . used similitudes. (v. 10 KJV)

On the original title page of his classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan quotes Hosea 12:10. Modern versions usually translate that last word “similitudes” as “parables.” Jesus was not the first man in the Bible to use analogies, stories, and word pictures to get his message across.

Subsequent centuries show many Christians (besides Bunyan) doing the same. Literary imagery—metaphor, simile, figures of speech—occurs in its most concentrated form in poetry, and few Christians have ever used poetic imagery to greater spiritual effect than George Herbert. In 1633, the year of his death, Herbert published a sonnet titled “Prayer”—the first of two poems so titled. The poem is printed here in its entirety so you can refer to it again during the course of the month. Better yet, why not memorize it? —David Bast

Prayer (I)

Prayer the Church’s banquet, Angels’ age,

God’s breath in man returning to his birth,

The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tower,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,

The six-days-world transposing in an hour,

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,

Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,

Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,

The milky way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood.

The land of spices; something understood.

Prayer: Lord, speak to me that I may speak more deeply to you.