A canal or a reservoir?

Written by on June 27, 2011

I was reading this morning in Richard Foster’s excellent book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (HarperCollins, 1992) and came across this comparison from Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Bernard writes,

“If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water. In the Church at the present day, we have many canals, few reservoirs.” (Foster, 168)

I thought that Bernard’s contrast between canals and reservoirs from almost 1000 years ago might provide an opportunity to prayerfully reflect upon the pace and priorities of our life and ministry:

  • How do you think Bernard of Clairaux’s observation of “having many canals” but “few reservoirs” applies to today’s North American church? Applies to your life?
  • What do you suppose are the implications for the person that is determined to be a reservoir? How would this determination affect our pace and relationships, our priorities and prayers?
  • Read and meditate upon Psalm 46 with an openness to the Spirit’s invitations in your life…

Blessings along the way…

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  1. Bosco Peters   On   December 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I am looking for the original source of your Bernard quote. If you know the original reference (Foster may have it in your book), please could you email it to me.



  2. Rob Loane   On   January 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I have been having a hard time tracking down the source of this quote as well. Foster obviously doesn’t offer it. I found some link to Douglas Steere’s book Great Devotional Classics but have not found that book. I’ll keep looking…but so far…no luck.

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