Thomas Dekker (Robert Hudson, editor)
Eerdmans, 176 pages
This is a most unusual book – and a lovely one at that. Robert Hudson, the poet and scholar whose works include “Kiss the Earth When You Pray,” has done the world a great favor by retrieving this old book of prayers. Written during the chaos of the early 16th century, Dekker was a contemporary of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. Neither a theologian nor a minister, he was a playwright of considerable skill and notoriety. Dekker lived through four London plagues and several stints in debtors’ prison, as well as witnessing the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 when he was 31 years old.
These prayers are arranged in four sections named for birds and corresponding to the people for whom the prayers are written. They include the entire human family from poor to rich and in every circumstance. “The Dove being the most humble bird of all, represents the prayers of everyday working people.” The Eagle is the section with prayers of the noble. The next two sections, the Pelican and the Phoenix, include the prayers that most closely follow the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The prayers have a precision and eloquence that still lift the spirit. Dekker concludes with a section called Feathers that includes short sayings and meditations.