Read: Genesis 15:1-6
Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able . . . So shall your offspring be. (v. 5)
The Milky Way, as such, doesn’t figure anywhere in the Bible. But perhaps it was that band of brightness across the night sky, where the stars seem most densely packed, that illustrated even better than the rest the mind-blowing fact that God aimed to bring home to Abraham in Genesis 15—innumerable descendants promised to a childless man.
Why does Herbert link it with prayer, though?
There is a clue in another of his poems, “The Holy Scriptures (II),” not itself about prayer but about Bible reading. Here too he has a starry sky in mind: “Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine, / And the configurations of their glory! / Seeing not only how each verse doth shine, / But all the constellations of the story.” The apparent patterns the stars make should remind God’s people of the actual patterns he intends their lives to follow.
Concerning the night sky as a whole, not just the Milky Way, it is these constellations, as well as the immense number of the stars, that stargazers have always noted. In a similar way, to Abraham they represented a multitude of people who were not just numberless but also all interrelated: “so shall your offspring be” (v. 5).
Consider this truth when you pray. All the people, all the things, that we talk to God about, and all the connections between them, are mapped out in his mind. He knows what he’s doing. —Michael Wilcock
Prayer: Thank you for every glimpse of the patterns you are working out.