Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Prayer Book For Spiritual Friends

One type of books I have grown to appreciate are those we call prayer books.  I bought my first prayer book soon after my graduation from High School.  I had failed miserably at delivering two prayers at commencement and I felt I needed to be taught in the school of prayer.  I needed to read the prayers that others have found rewarding, reflecting words that we so often grasp for, but so often seem fleeting, except by God's grace.  We are not lone pilgrims on the Holy trail, there are others too, who have been where we've been, and by God's grace, they have written prayers which speak, not only for them, but for others, for myself.

About a month ago I came across a work by Madeleine L'Engle and Luci Shaw called, "A Prayer Book For Spiritual Friends." (1999 - Augsburg)
This is a unique prayer book in that it the two friends converse, with one another and with God in a dialogical way that expands my notions of prayer.
They pray about death, sickness & healing, fatigue at the end of the day, the glory of creation, the human body, envy, dreams and so on.
In their prayer about envy Luci introduces the reader to the concept of Schadenfreude, "which means taking someone else down a peg in order to boost our own sense of well-being.  Or being secretly buoyed up by someone else's failure.  That's something I hope I never feel.  But it is a very human temptation."
I've found this concept and that prayer very helpful.

I share the full text of another prayer here:  For A Dream That Has Died

Luci:  Lord, I am so very discouraged this evening.  Hope seems to have died within me.  The project you helped us start last year will never really come to anything.

Madeleine:  It seemed so promising - and it seemed like something you would smile on, God.  Something that would give you pleasure and really help some of your children.

Luci:  It's so hard to see a dream die.  Lord, did I make a mistake?  I thought I heard you telling me this was your will.  I was so sure I heard you clearly.  Now, I don't know.  

Help me to persist, if that is your will.  And if not, help me to find something else to do.

Madeleine:  The same sort of thing has happened to me over and over again.  The form letter telling me that, though they liked my story, they had no place for it on their list.  Easier to read, but still perplexing, were the letters with the words:  "This book doesn't seem to fit any of our categories."  

And I wonder how long do I keep doing this?  Do I send the manuscript off to yet another publisher?  Is my stubbornness pride or folly?

Luci:  Dear God, such consistent rejections are painful.  It hurts to open the envelope and pull out the squashed little fairy with tattered wings.  The other painful thing about being a writer is when the book I've written with such high hopes, with ideas and images that just seemed to flow - a book that got such good reviews - failed to sell well and was later declared "out of print."

That really does feel like a death in the family.  The death of a dream.  The death of a job you gave me, a job I loved doing.       

Help us, dear Lord.  Help us not to give up on ourselves, or you.  Help us to act on the dreams you give us, whether or not anyone else approves.  Amen. 


Sherman said...

The last paragraph in this prayer really resonates with me. I recently began a new ministry. My parents, and sisters - not noted for encouragement - question the wisdom of pursing such a mission. But it is my passion to help others who are going through what I went through. It is my dream. But I constantly fight to keep the dream alive.

Sherman said...

Sorry - but I just had to add a thought from a famous theologian:

"Now the hardness of this world slowly grinds your dreams away."

Bruce Springsteen