I often write out my prayers. I have for years. I find that when I am able to write them, I am able to focus on what exactly it is that I want to say and, if I am able to listen well at the same time, better discern what it may be that is said in response. Writing it out focuses my attention and quiets the rest of the noise in my mind.
I've been reading a lot on prayer, recently - specifically through Timothy Keller's Prayer: Experiencing Awe & Intimacy With God, and Charles Spurgeon's Morning & Evening. Last month, though, a friend suggested that I pick up Flannery O'Connor's A Prayer Journal. He said that I would love the honesty of her prayers, and I have. Hers is a voice that has given words to my lack of them, and I wrote out a prayer of my own in response a couple of weeks ago that might lend a bit more clarity to my own why behind it...
Jesse suggested to me that I read Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal, and said that I would be blown away by the woman’s honesty. Already, one journal entry in - which amounts to little more than a page in a small book - I am connected and connecting with the words that she has to say.
“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon…"
“I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do. I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, ‘oh please God,’ and ‘I must,’ and ‘please, please.’ I have not asked You, I feel, in the right way… realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust I do not wish to presume. I want to love."
Truly, this tugs at my heart, but what I find most connected to is her last thought: “I do not with to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life; but I have been saying them and not feeling them. My attention is always very fugitive. This way I have it every instant. I can feel a warmth of love heating me when I think & write this to You. Please to not let the explanations of the psychologist about this make it turn suddenly cold. My intellect is so limited, Lord, that I can only trust in You to preserve me as I should be…"
This is so close to what fueled my prayers on Wednesday that I feel like she’s given adequate words to my thoughts. When I write my prayers, I feel like I actually express what I long to say to you, but I’m simultaneously so pulled apart by whether or not an academic would brush them off as mere self-masturbatory journal entries under the guise of spirituality that I wonder whether or not I am connecting with you at all.
Here, I find another writer giving voice to a struggle of my own, and I discover the same sort of sense of community with this long-dead woman as others have described in their discovery of the writing’s you have given me.
Thank you. And Lord, in my own pleading way, I pray that you would not allow me to put off Flannery’s writings as just another voice in the chaotic sea of all that there are, but perhaps that hers could be something that you speak to me through. If there ever is a realistic opportunity to write a book of my own on the struggle that this life is, perhaps Jesse was right about this woman’s journals being a good place to start for the reality she expresses. I certainly agree that we could do for some realism in this weirdly hyper-spiritual world of plaster faces.
I’m so sick of the show. But I want to believe that you still exist somewhere within it. I love you and I’m thankful for this small gift you’ve given me in O’Connor’s prayer this afternoon. Or, perhaps, this large gift.