Turning George Herbert’s ‘The Elixir’ into an academic prayer

George HerbertAs well as writing my own academic prayers I love the economy and precision of phrase in good poetry and find that it makes great prayer material as well. One of my favourite poems-cum-prayers is The Elixir, by George Herbert. It captures beautifully the spirit of Colossians 3:17 and 23-4:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  […] Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Amen! The poem is also in its own right one great answer to the question ‘How does being a Christian make a difference to the work and life of an academic?


TEACH me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into action ;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake ;
Nothing can be so mean
Which with his tincture (for Thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine :
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold ;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.