A time of prayer

Here a peasant woman is deep in prayer. She holds a lit taper in her left hand, and fingers a rosary with her right, holding this close to her heart. She is of a mature age but not old. The washed and starched collar and peasant cap, so well cared for, symbolise her piety and diligence. She is so deeply in prayer that she does not know that she is observed.

There is no context for the painting. Is she in a church? By concentrating on the woman alone, we are drawn into her prayers. Her bowed head and closed eyes indicate the depth of her communication with God. For what or who does she pray? The taper, that she might leave burning in a stand, is long. It will burn for some time.

This picture (Peasant woman holding a taper, c1869) is by the French realist painter Jules Adolphe Breton, who painted scenes and people from rustic life. At a time of rising industrialism, many French artists of this time were drawn into the countryside to paint such scenes of peasant life underpinned by religion.


As she (Hannah) continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.”

1 Samuel 1:12-15

My soul rejoices in God, my Saviour.
My spirit finds its joy in God, the living God.
My soul proclaims your mighty deeds.
My spirit sings the greatness of your name,
Your mercy flows throughout the land
and ev’ry generation knows your love.
You cast the mighty from their thrones
and raise the poor and lowly to new life.
You fill the hungry with good things.
With empty hands you send the rich away.
Just as you promised Abraham,
you come to free your people, Israel.

Magnificat (The song of Mary), Owen Alstott


Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

St Theresa of Avila