Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor

For a year and a half while the someday great author was in her early 20s, Flannery O'Connor had a private prayer journal.  Well, it is called a prayer journal, but they were really just notes to God, confessing her doubt, anxieties and personal struggles.  Don't expect any of these prayers to show up in collection of great prayers, because they are decidedly not devotional.  We might expect it of the author of A Good Man is Hard to Find and Wise Blood, but she is as brutally honest toward her own soul as she is later of her society at large.

Here are some quotes which give us a sense of her spiritual life:

"My thoughts are far away from God.  He might as well have not made me... Today I have proved myself a glutton-- for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought.  There is nothing left to say of me."

"Contrition in me is largely imperfect. I don't know if I've ever been sorry for a sin because it hurt You. That kind of contrition is better than none but it is selfish. To have the other kind, it is necessary to have knowledge, faith extraordinary.  All boils down to grace, I suppose."

"One thing I have seen this week-- it has been a peculiar week-- is my constant seeing of myself as what I want to be, but the right genre, the eternal embryo-- and eternal in no false sense.  I must grow."

"My dear God, how stupid we people are until You give us something.  Even in praying it is You who have to pray in us.  I would like to write a beautiful prayer but I have nothing to do it from. There is a whole sensible world around me that I should be able to turn to Your praise; but I cannot do it. Yet at some insipid moment when I may possibly be thinking of floor wax or pigeon eggs, the opening of a beautiful pray may come up from my subconscious and lead me to write something exalted."

"Sin is a great thing as long as it's recognized.  It leads a good many people to God who wouldn't get there otherwise."

"I do not want to be lonely all my life but people only make me lonelier by reminding me of God."

"Am I keeping my faith by laziness, dear God?"

A Prayer Journal is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013

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