A RANDOM ASSORTMENT OF
P R A Y E R S
F O U N D
IN SURPRISING PLACES
COLLECTED HERE FOR THE WONDER OF IT
S R E Y A R P D N U O F
F O U N D
P R A Y E R S
Think of “found prayers” as verbal expressions of need, desire, hope, fear, sorrow, delight, love, gratitude, and much more. Something in the wording of them suggests the presence of someone else who is receiving them, an “other” to whom they truly matter. So, there is an element of faith, expressed or implied, in the “other” who may be called God, unfathomable mystery, transcendent one, holy one, higher power, creator . . .
Generally one doesnâ€™t go looking for found prayers. Theyâ€™re best when we stumble upon them unexpectedly, and especially delightful when they take us by surprise. This can happen just about anywhere, and usually not in an overtly religious context. They turn up in real-life conversations, in the news of the day, in writings of every kind, in the lyrics of songs . . . You simply have to pay attention and sometimes probe between the lines to bring them into the light.
MAKE LONGER TABLES
by the editor of Food & Wine magazine, August 2018, in commemoration of Anthony Bourdain: “We’re left with an even more critical part of Anthony Bourdain's legacy as well: the enduring spirit of curiosity. Curiosity is more powerful than divisive, isolationist jingoism. Curiosity opens the door to cultural exchange and understanding:"
Our narrator is gone, so let’s turn off the TV for a while, OK? Let’s open our doors to others, cook without borders, and gather stamps in our passports. Let’s push down tall walls to make longer tables. HUNTER
I GO TO SLEEP SMILING Yes, in just a matter of months I’ll depart old age to enter deep old age ... Right now it is astonishing to find myself still here at the end of each day. Getting into bed at night I smile and think, “I lived another day.” And then it’s astonishing again to awaken eight hours later and to see that it is morning of the next day and that I continue to be here. “I survived another night,” which thought causes me to smile once more. I go to sleep smiling and I wake up smiling. I’m very pleased that I’m still alive.
I WAKE UP SMILING
Found prayers may sound like a joyous or anguished cry from the heart. They can have all the energy of an exhortation to others. Sometimes theyâ€™re delivered in direct words to "someone" and at other times the element of prayer is merely implied, perhaps obscurely or subtly. Finding prayers in strange places puts us on the lookout for them, and increases the ability to recognize them wherever they are. Eventually you discover that they are in fact everywhere.
Â O DIO, O DIO, O DIO! O DIO MIO!
O DIO SANTO!
"O GOD! O HOLY GOD!" -- Cry of a bystander witnessing the collapse of Ponte Morandi in Genoa; heard on NPR Morning Edition, August 14, 2018
One explanation for found prayers is that we (all of us) are praying all the time. So said Brother Lawrence, the 16th Century French Carmelite brother who collected his insights into the spiritual classic called The Practice of the Presence of God. He says, "Our biggest
mistake is to think that a time of prayer is different from any other time. It is all one.â€? He has also been quoted as saying that we would be surprised to hear the conversation thatâ€™s going on all the time between God and each person. His insights open doors to the deep mystery of the human person and they make space for a wide and flexible understanding of prayer.
DIRT, THE ECSTATIC SKIN OF THE EARTH WILLIAM BRYANT LOGAN Logan is a certified arborist and president of Urban Arborists, Inc., a Brooklyn-based tree company He has been a journalist and author of Dirt... about the increasing scarcity of soil on Earth.
We know well enough that every finger of the hand has a use that is separate and no other finger could do so well. Yet even to do that, the community, the ensemble is primary. And through the neighbourly relation of parts, the hands perform those functions of which prayer is the plainest manifestation: to dig down, to grasp, to lift, and to let go.
DEWY WISP OLAV HAUGE
Don’t give me the whole truth, don’t give me the sea for my thirst, don't give me the sky when I ask for light
but give me a glint, a dewy wisp, a mote as the birds bear water-drops from their bathing and the wind a grain of sand.
Olav H. Hauge (1908–1994) lived all his life in Ulvik, a village in the west of Norway on the Hardangerfjord. He translated many English and American writers into Norwegian.
MAKING THE HOUSE READY FOR THE LORD
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but still nothing is as shining as it should be for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice â€“ it is the season of their many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves and through the walls the squirrels have gnawed their ragged entrances â€“ but it is
the season when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And the raccoon limps into the kitchen and
opens the cupboard while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow; what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly up the path to the door. And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in,
Mary Oliver, American Poet and Pulitzer Prize winner, 1935"Making the House Ready for the Lord" from Thirst: Poems, 2007
IN THE NURSING HOME
She is like a horse grazing a hill pasture that some one makes smaller by coming every night
She has stopped running wide loops,
to pull the fences
stopped even the tight circles.
in and in.
She drops her head to feed; grass is dust and the creekbed's dry.
Master, come with your light halter. Come and bring her in.
PRAYER GALWAY KINNELL
WHATEVER HAPPENS. WHATEVER WHAT IS IS IS WHAT I WANT. ONLY THAT. BUT THAT.
WALTER BRUEGGEMANN Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET Just when we imagine that we have you figured out you show up working the other side of the street in your frightening freedom. You meet us behind and before as promise and as threat, and we are overmatched whenever we sit to deal with you. So we bid you to pay less vigorous attention to us and we bid you to give us the freedom and courage that we may withstand you in ways that are proper to you and to us. We pray in the name of the utterly humble One whom you therefore exalted. Give us wisdom and freedom that we may sense the ways in which we may best live in this world where the last become first and the first become last. Amen.
YOU! YOU! YOU! Where I wander — You! Where I ponder — You! Only You, You again, always You! You! You! You! When I am gladdened — You! Only You, You again, always You! You! You! You! sky is You! Earth is You! You above! You below! In every trend, at every end, Only You, You again, always You! You! You! You!
Old rabbinic prayer in: Martin Buber, TALES OF HASADIM: THE EARLY MASTERS (NY: Schocken Books, 1947)
On this doorstep I stand year after year and watch you leaving and think: may you not skin your knees. May you not catch your fingers in car doors. May your hearts not break.
May tide and weather wait for your coming and may you grow strong to break all webs of my weaving.
FOR MY CHILDREN
FROM THE HEART OF A FIREFIGHTER'S MOTHER
"we live in a constant state of deep worry (some days are worse but all are tough) and we have everyone we know praying for him and all the firefighters" (found in an e-mail message)
Please stop the fire - protect the firefighters - hear their loved ones' cries comfort the victims - have mercy on Earth - answer when we call - please stop the fires, protect the firefighters - hear their loved ones' cries - comfort the victims - have mercy on Earth - answer when we call - please stop the fires - protect the firefighters - hear their loved ones' cries - comfortÂ
AS IF TO DEMONSTRATE AN ECLIPSE BILLY COLLINS
I pick an orange from a wicker basket and place it on the table to represent the sun. Then down at the other end a blue and white marble becomes the earth and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.
I get a glass from a cabinet, open a bottle of wine, then I sit in a ladder-back chair, a benevolent god presiding over a miniature creation myth,
and I begin to sing a homemade canticle of thanks for this perfect little arrangement, for not making the earth too hot or cold not making it spin too fast or slow
so that the grove of orange trees and the owl become possible, not to mention the rolling wave, the play of clouds, geese in flight, and the Z of lightning on a dark lake.
Then I fill my glass again and give thanks for the trout, the oak, and the yellow feather,
singing the room full of shadows, as sun and earth and moon circle one another in their impeccable orbits and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.
ACCEPT THIS, ACCEPT ME In a very real sense, real to me, anyway, my poems are prayers. They're prayers that say, under their words, "Here. I make this in praise, in confusion. I make this while knowing nothing. Accept this, accept me." That's one kind of poem, one kind of prayer, I think. But this is very, very private and not public prayer. In fact, this prayer is below the surface of the poem, invisible to others, I hope. It may be impertinent of me, but I believe that when human beings perform creative acts of imagination and do so with reverence and joy, they are praying…. “A Conversation with Pattiann Rogers” in Image, Winter 2000-1
. . . I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us . . . . What matters is that, when I saw them, I saw them as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly. Mary Oliver, "Snow Geese"
PERFECT FREEDOM To listen seriously to music and to perform it are among the most potent ways of learning what it is to live with and be for God, learning a service that is perfect freedom . . . In this ‘obedience’ of listening and following, we are stretched and deepened, physically challenged as performers, imaginatively as listeners. The time we have renounced, given up, is given back to us as a time in which we have become more human, more real, even when we can’t say what we have learned, only that we have changed. ROWAN WILLIAMS, 3 CHOIRS FESTIVAL
In the dark time, will there be singing? Yes, there will be singing. About the dark times. BERTOLT BRECHT
Give yourself 10 minutes to listen to Spiegel im Spiegel by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, who wanted his listeners to love every word of his music.
BE WHERE YOUR BUTTS ARE ANNE LAMOTT, PLAN B: FURTHER THOUGHTS ON FAITH
Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all. Laugh, rest and slow down… take a long deep breath and stop.
“How are we going
Just be where your butts are, and breathe. Take some time . . .
to get through this craziness?” I asked.. There was silence
Rest, but pay attention . . . Slow down. Better yet, lie down . . .
for a moment. “Left
Prone Yoga . . . Read, listen to music, space out or sleep . . . but lying down. Maintaining the prone. You’ve nothing left to prove and, besides, it’s a fool’s game. . . There are so many things to do right now. Write. Sing. Rest. Eat cherries . . . And give thanks.
foot, right foot, left foot, breathe.”
LAUGHTER IS PRAYER Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is quoted as saying that laughter is prayer. Comedian Stephen Colbert says: “You can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time . . . doing something joyfully doesn’t make it any easier; it only makes it better. It also makes it communal, so we’re all doing it together. When you work in fear or . . . distress you often feel alone. But jokes, laughter, humor, whatever you want to call it, it connects people, and we’re not alone." STEPHEN COLBERT, interview with Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt & Light Media Foundation; Cartoon by LEUNIG, "THE WOES OF THE WHIRLED"
IF IT BE YOUR WILL CLICK TO LISTEN LEONARD COHEN & PATRICK LEONARD
If it be your will That I speak no more And my voice be still As it was before I will speak no more I shall abide until I am spoken for If it be your will
2) If it be your will That a voice be true From this broken hill I will sing to you From this broken hill All your praises they shall ring If it be your will To let me sing From this broken hill All your praises they shall ring
4) If it be your will To make us well 3) If it be your will And draw us near And bind us tight To let me sing All your children here In their rags of light If it be your will In our rags of light All dressed to kill If there is a choice And end this night If it be your will Let the rivers fill If it be your will Let the hills rejoice Let your mercy spill On all these burning hearts in hell
CLEAN WATER ROSEMARY ROBERTS
I noticed a minute fly on a blade of grass crawling towards a rain drop resting on the tip of the blade.
Having once been desperately thirsty and unable to drink, I found myself longing for everyone in the world to have access to clean water.
MORNINGS LIKE THIS Mornings like this: I look About the earth and the heavens: There is not enough to believe . . . DAVID GRAYSON
This collection of found prayers was inspired by the “found poems” Annie Dillard gathered into her book Mornings Like This. (NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995) She found the above poem in David Grayson's diary, The Countryman's Year (1935). Grayson was a writer and Pulitzer prize winning biographer of Woodrow Wilson. His greatest pleasure was to philosophize in the peace and quiet of his farm in Amherst, MA
Enjoy praying these prayers. Let them sharpen your own ability to recognize what's in the hearts of persons everywhere in relation to their creator, their world, and themselves. Please add to this collection by sharing what you find. Send suggestions to email@example.com
THANK YOU to all who helped with this project -- finding prayers, offering suggestions, giving tech support . . .
Rocio de la Selva
a random assortment of prayers found in surprising places, collected for the wonder of it