When a Really Accomplished Someone turns out to have some of the same questions, worries, and thought patterns as you do, it makes you feel a bit brighter about your potential. For that reason alone, if you’re a writer or a person who feels acutely how much grace you require (that’s me!), you should read Flannery O’Connor’s book of prayers. (If you need another reason, the main text is only about 30 pages long, so it will be quick.)
Flannery journaled her prayers for a short time while at the University of Iowa writer’s workshop. These are written before she wrote the novel and short stories we know her for today and before she was widely recognized as a genius. She was like me or any of you who are peering ahead and wondering if the creative work you think so much about will ever actually be anything. And more: Will it ever be good?
Her prayers are bald and needy. Make me a better writer, God. Give me a story and make it good. Remind me to be charitable. Or, one of my favorites:
When I think of all I have to be thankful for I wonder that You don’t just kill me now because You’ve done so much for me already and I haven’t been particularly grateful.
How comforting that the prayers of great people don’t sound so different from mine or yours. And how comforting that God, this God who dug out the oceans and pierced the sky with stars, wants to hear about how we ate too many cookies, we ran into that person who is hard to like, we want our lives to mean something, and please help us focus, all in the same prayer–at least that’s how O’Connor prayed.
I’m plotting my New Year’s Resolutions and this prayer keeps coming to mind. I’m borrowing it for the new year.
But dear God please give me some place, no matter how small, but let me know it and keep it. If I am the one to wash the second step everyday, let me know it and let me wash it and let my heart overflow with love washing it.
Show me my something small, my second step, and let me wash it with love unending.
If you’re a lover of quotes, as I am, here’s a few more from her journal:
Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.
Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story–just like the typewriter was mine.
Help me to ask You, oh Lord, for what is good for me to have, for what I can have and do Your service by having.
Dear God, please give me as much air as it is not presumptuous to ask for.