This is the full, original text from an 1852 edition of Fr. Faber’s hymnal Jesus and Mary. It is listed under the title “Distractions in Prayer.” in that hymnal:
Ah! dearest Lord! I cannot pray,
My fancy is not free;
Unmannerly distractions come,
And force my thoughts from Thee.
The world that looks so dull all day
Glows bright on me at prayer,
And plans that ask no thought but then
Wake up and meet me there.
All nature one full fountain seems
Of dreamy sight and sound,
Which, when I kneel, breaks up its deeps,
And makes a deluge round.
Old voices murmur in my ear,
New hopes start into life,
And past and future gaily blend
In one bewitching strife.
My very flesh has restless fits;
My changeful limbs conspire
With all these phantoms of the mind
My inner self to tire.
I cannot pray; yet, Lord! Thou know’st
The pain it is to me
To have my vainly struggling thoughts
Thus torn away from Thee.
Ah! Jesus! teach me how to prize
These tedious hours when I,
Foolish and mute before Thy Face,
In helpless worship lie.
Prayer was not meant for luxury,
Or selfish pastime sweet;
It is the prostrate creature’s place
At his Creator’s Feet.
Had I kept stricter watch each hour
O’er tongue and eye and ear,
Had I but mortified all day
Each joy as it came near,
Had I, dear Lord! no pleasure found
But in the thought of Thee,
Prayer would have come unsought, and been
A truer liberty.
Yet Thou art oft most present, Lord!
In weak distracted prayer;
A sinner out of heart with self
Most often finds Thee there.
And prayer that humbles sets the soul
From all illusions free,
And teaches it how utterly,
Dear Lord! it hangs on Thee.
The soul, that on self-sacrifice
Is covetously bent,
Will bless Thy chastening hand that makes
Its prayer its punishment.
Ah, Jesus! why should I complain?
And why fear aught but sin!
Distractions are but outward things;
Thy peace dwells far within!
These surface-troubles come and go,
Like rufflings of the sea;
The deeper depth is out of reach
To all, my God, but Thee!
Words: Fr. Frederick William Faber, C.O., 1849.
Tune: “Nox Praecessit” J. Baptiste Calkin, 1827-1905.