A prayer with words

Once in my mid-twenties, I heard about a conversation between one of my mentors and a seminary professor.  “She backs into it, but she gets there.”  Most likely, they discussed my struggle with the Incarnation and Resurrection and my problem with Jesus in general. 

I’m thinking lately about how ever so slowly I’ve “backed in” to praying aloud.  (When necessary).  And with words.  (And I’m approaching sixty.)  

 The dilemma, of course – words, sentences, subjects and predicates, the shape of language, thought itself.  Just think, for example,  how words fail in love!

As a child I learned instinctively to pray without words.  Except for the beloved (1928) Book of Common Prayer shaping my soul’s expression profoundly, I prayed without words.  I knew that the prayerbook’s words, better crafted than my thoughts, more beautiful than language usage in my little suburban culture, even these words only pointed a way into praying. 

Not until falling into the Autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila at the age of twenty-two did I manage to begin putting together a life of prayer.  I realized that I’d been praying since early childhood,  and both the Book of Common Prayer, and, well, that other, wordless inner way of seeing and knowing and being, provided a robust foundation for that life.

But as a church professional, improvised public prayers with words caused me panic.  Even responding to the spontaneous request for simple grace over meals by a polite host caused me anguish.   Celebrating the Eucharist always costs me a kind of unexplainable psychic depletion.   (That’s another topic altogether.)

From this convent garden, from this one flawed, introverted, contemplative sinner comes a prayer I wrote for others with similar flaws, introversion, contemplative-leaning inner lives.  Perhaps these words came forth for you.  Words you can’t find from your wordlessness, when you need words.   

Half a lifetime ago
I perceived
I could not know You
by knowing.
step by cautious step
I come toward You
within the dark spaces
between knowing.

I now know less and less.
You fill space more and more.

I am grateful for emptiness.

One Response to “A prayer with words”

  1. Su Murdock Says:

    What a wonderful prayer. Thanks

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