A Prayer Journal
If you are a fan of the great Southern author Flannery O’Connor and even if you aren’t, you will relish the recently published book, The Prayer Journal. It is an exquisite collection of O’Connor’s private prayers to God. Flannery O’Connor died tragically at the young age of 39 from Lupos, but not before receiving her rightful place in the American canon of Literature. The estate of Flannery O’Connor asked W.A. Sessions, a long time friend of the author’s, to write her biography. One day thumbing through her things, Sessions discovered an old school notebook filled with O’Connor’s intimate conversations with God.
Several years ago I took a theology and literature class at Vanderbilt Divinity School on Flannery O’Connor. The class and its professor, Victor Judge, had an enormous impact on my own personal faith and writing. For those of you who are familiar with O’Connor’s canon, you know well the luminous threads of redemption and grace that permeate her often dark stories. O’Connor was never one for sentimentality. She was interested in a reckoning of the soul and the mysterious workings of grace on the most misguided and lost of souls. Many of her narratives become mirrors where we as the reader are forced to see ourselves in all our “grotesque and glory.”
In many ways, O’Connor was a literary prophet. Like Jesus, she had little patience for the Pharisee with a faith that is artificial, comfortable, or worse, judgmental. O’Connor championed a transformation of the heart. She went for the marrow of the soul, the place where God mediates His grace and redeems humanity. The true definition of hope! I especially admire O’Connor because she believed everyone “counted” before God. Although, we all have flaws, we are each made in the image of God and deserve grace.
I have woven O’Connor’s most memorable characters like Bevel from “The River” who gave his very life to be included in God’s kingdom and Ruby Turpin in “Revelation,” who wrestled with God for His blessing, into the tapestry of my faith. And that is why, The Prayer Journal, is such an amazing gift. For the first time, we actually get to hear the voice of O’Connor herself. Her prayers are simple, humble, and universal. She was a woman seeking God for direction, communion, and salvation.
Following is a prayer that I have composed with excerpts of O’Connor’s words that especially resonated with me:
I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and myself is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. I do not know You God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside. Please help me to get under things and find where You are.
I don’t want to fear to be out, I want to love to be in; I don’t want to believe in hell but in heaven.
I am afraid of pain and I suppose that is what we have to have to get grace. Give me the courage to stand the pain to get the grace, Oh Lord. Help me with this life that seems so treacherous, so disappointing.
I would like to be intelligently holy. I am a presumptuous fool, but maybe the vague thing in me that keeps me in…is hope. I don’t want to be doomed to mediocrity in my feeling for Christ.
I want to love.
Take me, dear Lord, and set me in the direction I am to go.
Live in Hope,