As a Deer Pants for Water

Fr. Stephen Powley | 03 September 2021

On a recent hike into a nearby wilderness area, I discovered that one of the springs I often visit had dried up. It is easy to picture the wildlife that had been coming there for a needed drink suddenly finding themselves “panting for streams of water” (Psalm 42 (41):1. The extreme heat and drought in Colorado are having an impact.

A few miles away, there is another spring that is still flowing. It was a joy to visit this one and find that the many of the wildlife were enjoying this wonderful oasis. The photo speaks volumes as this little fawn frolics in the water of this spring as its thirst has been quenched.

All of us have experienced (or may be experiencing right now) a spiritual drought. Have you gone through those times when your prayers don’t seem to even reach the ceiling? Sometimes, my prayers feel like they leave my lips and fall to the floor. And are there times when you read a passage from the Bible and get zero from it? I sometimes run onto that in my daily readings and feel so very thirsty. Yes, I can identify with that mother and baby deer before they found that living spring.

Have I been longing for the Living Water (Christ) or simply going through the motions of prayer and Scripture reading? We can pray words and read words without our hearts and minds abiding in Christ. It is Christ, the Living Water, that will quench our thirst. We need to keep focused on Him as we pray. The same is true as we read the Holy Scriptures. “Oh Lord, illumine my heart and my mind as only You can do.”  We know the importance of “being present” in our interactions with other people and it holds so very true in our interactions with the Lord. Our minds so easily wander! The Lord is present when we pray and read His Word. We need to “abide” in that presence and commune with Him, our source of Living Water. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).

The author of Psalm 42(41) certainly understood this principle and we have his guidance to follow:

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.”

In addition to “being present” with the Lord in our personal prayers and Scripture reading, we need to be present with Him in Church. Stay focused on Christ in the prayers and worship of our services. It is a battle! Our wandering thoughts so easily lead us away. We Orthodox Christians have the icon of Christ in our churches to help us keep focused on Him. He, and He alone, will quench our thirst. As we do this, the Psalm continues:

“By day the Lord directs his love, at night His song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.”

Like that precious fawn frolicking in the water, so our souls will once again “frolic” in the spiritual refreshment that God alone can bring. When you find yourself in a spiritual drought, it might be a good start to speak to your soul as the psalmist suggests and then drink from that spring of Living Water to quench your thirst:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

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