Most people you meet these summer days of 2018 remark about the ‘grand weather’ - unless you are of the land, and suffering drought and withered stalks. In this case one talks about the dependence we humans have on the cycles of nature maintaining a harmony which brings blessings to all of us. Praying for good weather wants us to have sunshine at the beach and rain in the fields, which are incompatible, and so maybe a ‘prayer’ best not made at all. Prayer words can be careless, and wistful thinking remains wistful.
But the scriptures are heavy with prayer for the wonders of God as expressed in his creation. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ Ps:19, and Ps.104 [JB] delights in a planet ’completely full of things which God has made’ (v.24). The chant of the three men in the furnace recounted in the Book of Daniel fails to exhaust the praise due to the Creator: ‘O all you works of the Lord praise the Lord, to Him be highest Glory and Praise forever’. Dan.3:51ff. Scripture sees all nature as a sign of the presence and creative activity of God.
A believer sees not only the beauty of the summertime, but is sensitive to, or attuned to a felt presence of God in the beauty. Among the poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins expressed this sentiment in well-crafted poetry. Patrick Kavanagh, more colloquially, also captures the presence of the Divine in his ‘Canal Bank Sonnets’. This theme is particularly explicit in Canal Bank Walk. The opening lines establishes nature as a healing reality: Leafy with love banks, and the green waters of the canal / Pouring redemption for me … His experience of renewal leads to the wonderful prayer in the final six lines:
‘O unworn world, enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
` Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.
To walk deliberately among the beauties of nature, and, at this time, among the lushness of trees and hedgerows, and to be alert to the Divine presence, is to allow the healing possibilities of a warm and kind summer touch our hearts, minds and spirits.