What’s the thing with prayer?

What’s the thing with prayer? Where do words go? Once they are uttered, do they slide out of the window, drop to the pavement to be washed into the gutter, down through the grates, into the river? How do you pump words up so they’ll hold air and perhaps catch an updraft?

What implement to use? What invocation? What incantation? Which heuristic program? What sect keeps the recipe?

And still we pray.

We pray, we trade our lives in the dark for the life of one loved. We make bargains—long after our ears are deaf from straining for news of change—we still make bargains.

Take a limb, we say, give me the pain, we say. Take years of our lives, take as many as you need, add them where they’ll do good.

How long does a Monday take? Jacob on his spiritual hike, wrestled for a night. The woman who bled—30 years she bled—spent it all on stanching. Then a miracle after 30 years.

The drip drip of disappointment becomes an undertow, hope slips out into the deep to be fished out by who? Jonah? 

But, should I end this post this way? It seems, no. Take the long view, the larger perspective, it seems to say. Take the higher ways that aren’t our ways, those ways we know nothing about, where wisdom tells us there is deeper wisdom. And if Tuesday comes, that perspective will satisfy, even sweetly so. But if you’re stuck in Monday that abstraction could drive you mad.


  1. Stuck in Monday, talk of higher ways and deeper wisdom could most definitely drive you mad. Talk of the drip of disappointment turning to a dangerous undertow is more honest, more empathetic, holier.

    If Tuesday does come, we may speak of higher ways… or we may just admit that it still feels random and senseless, and be thankful that for us at least, Tuesday came.

    Love and tears.

  2. Steve – very well said my friend – I was thinking of you the other day for some reason…anyway here is something by Larkin that seems to fit your thoughts today:



    What are days for?
    Days are where we live.   
    They come, they wake us   
    Time and time over.
    They are to be happy in:   
    Where can we live but days?

    Ah, solving that question
    Brings the priest and the doctor   
    In their long coats
    Running over the fields.

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