It sounded like there was a monstrous beast in the brush behind me, it really did. There I was, sitting on the deck in the balmy Oregon morning, reading my Bible and praying. Our home was nestled beside McDowell Creek, with waterfalls just up the road and the mossy green forest all around; it was a place of peace. But the morning quiet was shattered by loud snorting and crashing and bellowing turmoil- all my internal alarms went off. I expected to be attacked. Something big and scary and forceful was headed toward me! Suddenly right next to me, bursting out of the bush, this big stag deer rushed out of the forest and tore across the grass to get to the creek. Immersing his head in the water, sucking and blowing, he drank and drank and drank.
That, my friends, is how a deer “pants for water”!
Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” There is a lovely pastoral chorus built around this verse that we used to sing at church. It is lyrical and the melody is smooth, “as a deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee…” But I’m telling you, there’s nothing smooth about a thirsty deer. A thirsty deer is a desperate deer, whose sole focus is getting to the flowing stream and sticking their head into it! And nothing better get in their way!
Funny thing about our souls – they get thirsty. They get thirsty for God, the living God. God is the source of our souls, he is the Creator of our life, and we require him for sustenance and satisfaction. Elsewhere the psalmist says that his soul thirsts for God “like a parched land” (143:6). Thirst is a demanding state – nothing satisfies but water. And without water, we’ll die. Without God, our souls will die.
The good news is that the Lord Jesus says: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive…” If you believe in Jesus, you have been given his Spirit. The Spirit has made his home in you (John 14) and your heart contains this artesian spring of cool flowing water. Is your soul thirsty today? Stop and turn inward to the One who never leaves you- open your heart to His presence and ask for refreshment for your thirsty soul. Take your cues for prayer from the very loud desperate deer. You are thirsty for God.
For more on this, go read Ken Berding’s take on this passage.