the push of prayer

(i'm gonna level with you. i wish i brought my camera with me everywhere. i wish i always had lovely and beautiful and fun pictures to post. i wish i was better at documenting the day to day--more consistent and streamlined in my style. but if i think back to why i began this blog it was to remember. so that five, ten, twenty years from now i might remember the day to day, as well as what was inspiring me at any given point. so today there are no pictures. only the words of a man much wiser than myself that i have returned to again and again since reading them a month ago. if this is no interest to you, then i beg your indulgence, or invite you to skip it all together. because for me...well, i need to post it for myself.)

A Prayer for Pete 
Brian Doyle

The phone rings, it's an old friend, he tells me of another old friend who is dying. Our friend is in his forties, just married, with a little boy, and there's no hope, he'll be dead within a couple of years, and dying too in a most cruel fashion, piece by piece, as his body slowly fails around the bright light of his mind, leaving him trapped in the husk of what had been a wonderfully lithe body.

I try to imagine my friend inside himself, immobile in a dark crumbled castle, his mind racing--and I have to get up and get outside and go for a walk.

So what prayer do I make for Pete? What do I say for his little boy, who will lose his father before he knows him well? What do I say for his wife, who will watch her new husband die a little every day and then be left alone with their son, who has the same thick red hair as his father?

I don't know.

Do I really think that my prayers will save Pete, or cut his pain, or dilute his fear as he sees the darkness descending? Do I really think my prayers will make his wife's agony any less, or reduce the confused sadness of his little boy?


But I mutter prayers anyway, form them in the cave of my mouth and speak them awkwardly into the gray wind, watch as they are instantly shattered and splintered and whipped through the old oak trees and sent headlong into the dark river below, where they seem lost and vanished, empty gestures in a cold land.

Did they have any weight as they flew?

I don't know?

But I believe with all my heart that they mattered because I was moved to make them. I believe that the mysterious sudden impulse to pray is the prayer, and that the words we use for prayer are only envelopes in which to mail pain and joy, and that arguing about where prayers go, and who sorts the mail, and what unimaginable senses hear us is foolish.

It's the urge that matters--the sudden Save us that rises against horror, the silent Thank you for joy. The children are safe, and we sit stunned and grateful by the side of the road; the children are murdered, every boy and girl in the whole village, and we sit stunned and desperate, and bow our heads, and whisper for their souls and our sins.

So a prayer for my friend Pete, in gathering darkness, and a prayer for us all, that we be brave enough to pray, for it is an act of love, and love is why we are here.