I’ve been thinking a lot about prayers lately. About how to do it, where they go, and what they look like. I’ve been praying about praying, too. Is a prayer asking for help? Is it giving thanks? Is it saying, “Wow”? Anne Lammot would advise all three. Is a prayer a second or a mile? A blade of grass or a field of sunflowers? It’s it a whimper, a cry, a song, or a siren? A rainbow after the rainstorm, or the dark clouds before it? Sometimes like to think of prayers as both, and also each drop rain that falls in between.
What is a prayer to you?
Ever since I’ve started praying about praying, lessons about prayers have been coming my way. I think this too is a prayer, and God’s clever way of answering all that I’m lifting up by whispering, “Go ahead dear one, I’m listening.”
“I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver
I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t pursuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.
If you’d like to hear Mary read her poem, head here. It’s really lovely.