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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Oh God . . .

. . . . I am hellishly angry; I think so-and-so is a swine; I am tortured by worry about this or that; I am pretty certain that I have missed my chances in life; this or that has left me feeling terribly depressed. But nonetheless here I am like this, feeling both bloody and bloody-minded, and I am going to stay here for ten minutes. You are most unlikely to give me anything. I know that. But I am going to stay here for ten minutes nonetheless. Amen.
Harry Williams.
I love this prayer.

It never fails to make me giggle.

When I first read it, it made me gasp with its patently human honesty. It captures for me those times when I am cranky about morning prayer. When I wonder why I do it every morning, same time, same station.

Oh, I try to change it up - sometimes the daily office from the BCP. Sometimes I use the Roman Breviary. Other times, I use the Taize daily office. I'm particularly fond of Phyllis Tickle's seasonal Divine Hours.

I'm pretty disciplined about prayer. After more than 25 consecutive years, I could no sooner begin the day without time in prayer than leave the house before brushing my teeth and brushing my hair.

But, sometimes . . . sometimes there are times when I don't want to pray. Flat out. Or, at least, the prayer that comes from my heart doesn't combine the soaring, poetic language, the wonderful meter and rhythm and the inspiring connection to the ancient of days that comes from one of my prayer books.

Instead, I feel more like this prayer by Harry Williams. Or just saying something like,
"I don't feel like saying these words, God. I don't have anything better to say. Actually, I really don't know what I want to say. One option would be to just sit here, quietly, but I don't even want to do that this morning. Silence would bore me to tears right now. Truth be told, I don't know what else to do. How 'bout, say, I read you the front page of the New York Times and I'll offer some prayers for some of these people? Will that be okay? Well, it will have to do cuz I got nothing else right now. So, here we go . . ."
Which, in fact, may well be a more authentic prayer than anything I could read out of a book.

I love to tell the story of my Grandmother's prayers. She had little shrines everywhere around the house. Over in one corner was a statue of St. Gerard - patron saint of families. He would get all the prayers for her children and grandchildren, written down on little pieces of paper and slipped under the votive light.

On the large floor console radio stood the statue of St. Jude - patron saint of lost causes. He would get the prayers for those who were very sick, or, perhaps, someone who was an alcoholic.

In the corner in the kitchen was a statue of St. Joseph - patron saint of workers. He would get special petitions and intentions so that her sons ("the boys") would keep their jobs at the various factories and her daughters ("the girls") would keep their jobs as members of the various 'Lady Garment Workers Union."

Doesn't that sound elegant? Lady Garment Workers Union? They worked in sweat shops, for criminy's sake! They worked like dogs and were treated like chattel. Even with the union advocating for better working conditions.

When there was a strike, St. Joseph's shrine would glow over in the corner, there were so many votive lights around him. But, he always came through. He was the most reliable of all the saints to whom she had shrines.

Well, Joe and his wife Mary. You know. The BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary). Her shrine was in my grandmother's bedroom, on her bureau. That one always had lots of votive lights and lots of little papers tucked under them. These were the petitions of my grandmother's heart. She would often say her rosary in front of this shrine.

You could always depend on St. Joseph and the BVM. Oh, and, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of course. Although, to be honest, I don't remember slips of paper under his votive candle. She would just say prayers in front of Him. So he wouldn't feel slighted, I suppose.

And when St. Gerard or Jude or Francis didn't come through? Well, my Grandmother knew exactly what to do. She would blow out the candle and turn the statue to face the wall. Sort of like a religious 'time out'. But, not before she would holler at him for not answering her prayer.

"And, you'll stay that way until you do as I ask," she'd huff.

It always worked.

I suspect that's because God might actually prefer it when we speak honestly and from our hearts. Even if we're angry. Or, impertinent. Or rude.

I suspect those prayers make God giggle, too.

And, when God giggles, I imagine the entire company of heaven delights at the sound and gathers round to wait the ten minutes while we huff or stew or otherwise try to find a holy place in the depths of our humanity.

Sometimes, when you pray, you just gotta remind God who's in charge.


Janet said...

My friend Shirley links to your blog on Facebook, and I enjoy it so much, and this one especially for me right now when life is very difficult for me and my family. It made me smile, and this evening, that's a lot. Maybe I'll even pull myself together and post something on my own blog ...

Anonymous said...

The prayers made me & husband giggle, too. And how appropriate in times like these, when 20% of us are out of work, or the work we do doesn't cover the bills, and there are days when we feel utterly worthless. Makes me glad to know that God is still listening and maybe appreciates that great snarl of a prayer better than a tidy, dispassionate prayer from the BCP.
Cheryl Mack

Anonymous said...

The prayers made me & husband giggle, too. And how appropriate in times like these, when 20% of us are out of work, or the work we do doesn't cover the bills, and there are days when we feel utterly worthless. Makes me glad to know that God is still listening and maybe appreciates that great snarl of a prayer better than a tidy, dispassionate prayer from the BCP.
Cheryl Mack

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen dear Sister!

Michael Cudney said...

I think we have similar backgrounds, Elizabeth. We had numerous statues around the house and one of those grotto-type things in the yard for Mary. My favorite was the Little Infant of Prague [remember that?]. I got to change the robes for each liturgical season.
And yes, often the hardest times to prayer are when I'm in a safe place and in a good mood. Prayers of gratitude are maybe the hardest of all.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Michael, I have a whole essay started just about the Infant of Prague. I'm not sure of the origins of the devotion or what prayers to him promise, but every new bride in my family got an Infant of Prague statue as a wedding present for her new home.

We called it "Sissy Jesus."

Ashley said...

There is a National Shrine of the Infant of Prague here in Oklahoma, in the town of Prague--locals pronounce it with a long 'a'.

My gram had a huge devotion to him, as well as to a variation, an image she called the Infantino, I think, and which she'd inherited from her grandmother. It went everywhere with her. Her parish had an Infant of Prague statue; it looked like an enormous Madame Alexander doll, and I always marveled at the elaborate costumes. One celestial blue robe in particular stands out in memory.

it's margaret said...

Ahhhh yes!

And I heard some Brooklyn kids once say that they had tied the BVM in a weighted shoe box and threatened to throw her in the River unless God answered their prayers.... 'dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again....'

Joel has always said my most honest and fervent prayer has been, 'dear God.... FU.'

I hope God giggles when I pray that way.... or at least ROFLOL...

mywv: myceptre --now we now who's in charge!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Ok...I'm in love with that prayer. I'm actually having a run of busy but okay days, so may I reserve the right to tuck that prayer back for a rainy day????

Theodora May said...

I am using the psalms at this time for morning and evening prayers. Some can get brutally honest. But the psalms are written by humans and I can get brutally honest as well.

susankay said...

Sometimes my prayer is just "OK, God -- I'm here". Lots of times my prayer times are working through the prayer requests at the MadPriest's and at Paul the BB. -- never been clear about petitionary prayer but thanks to the blogverse I do a fair amount of it.