Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into
the deeps of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of
my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me
down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name.
Give me freedom to grow; so that I may become that self, the seed
of which you planted in me at my making. Out of the deep I cry to
you, O God. Amen.
George Appleton (1902-93), adapted by Jim Cotter (b.
SOMETIMES, when we pray, it is good to forget about ourselves.
In these times of prayer, it is as if we go out of ourselves, and
walk about among the people and places that we are interceding for.
It can also be that we forget about ourselves, because we are led a
little further into God, and are caught up in awe and wonder,
praise and peace.
At other times, however, our prayer is a journey within
ourselves. There is no one who finds this easy, if it is undertaken
truthfully. The prayer that we have this week is based on one by
George Appleton, Archbishop of Perth before his translation to
Jerusalem, and it focuses on the experience of travelling
Appleton invokes the language of Jonah and of the Psalms to
describe his situation. He speaks of descending "into the deeps of
my being", and at the close of the prayer he quotes directly from
Psalm 130 as he writes: "Out of the deep I cry to you, O God."
The scriptural image that he is calling to mind is one of being
covered over with water, in danger of being sucked down into the
place of death, the Pit (see Jonah 2 and Psalm 69). We know that
the author is using this image metaphorically, to describe an inner
drama. Drowning is an apt analogy for feeling far from God, and
suffering such distress that the self feels under threat of
So this prayer is allied to a rich tradition. Where it differs,
however, is in picturing the lightening of the descent by the
candle of the Spirit. As the author goes within himself, he asks
God to help him to face the "hidden things": all the memories and
hurts that have accrued over a lifetime, and that add to the
What is fascinating is that, at the bottom, in the darkest
place, where the writer of Jonah or Psalm 69 would imagine the Pit
to be, and the end of life, the author of this prayer pictures the
"spring of life". He also speaks of a seed; and both of these
images suggest new life and growth. By facing the hurts of the past
with God at his side, Appleton and Jim Cotter, who has slightly
adapted this prayer, hope to rediscover the self that truly
reflects the image of the God who made them.
We, too, benefit from turning within and making this journey.
Like these writers, we can pray for a candle of the Spirit to guide
us. We may also want to invite a travelling companion to come with
us, to help us on the way. A spiritual director, perhaps, or
someone with therapeutic training can help us to make sense of what
we find inside ourselves, and in this way can help to reflect the
illuminating light of the Spirit.
This prayer reassures us that whatever lies within is also in
God's keeping, and subject to God's healing, life-giving grace.
The Revd Alison Fulford is the Rector of Hickling with
Kinoulton and Upper Broughton, in the diocese of Southwell &