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Last Friday, we drove to Indiana in the rain. Not just any rain: This was a downpour, a thrashing, a blinding, ceaseless waterfall of rain — rain so heavy, you couldn’t see the car just ahead of you until you were this close. We could have pulled off the road — if we could have found an exit, and a safe parking lot, and if the rain might’ve abated (it didn’t, for two hours). Instead, we prayed.

My tongue was jumping around my mouth like there was a hot stone in it. Forget about eloquence — this was gut-level fear talking, a constant call for help. At one point, it looked as if a semi was about to run us off the road. I yelled, “Jesus!” — not as an expletive or an angry rebuttal, but as a child calling for her friend to stand by her side against a gang of bullies.

Prayer without ceasing: I ought to do it more often, and not just in panic situations. How could all of our lives be bettered from the consistent application of prayer?

My tongue
a wet, flopping thing
blind as a bird, just
out of the egg. Ungainly,
gutted by effort, exhausted,
still sings in my mouth.
In praise, my prayer
finds feathers,
flies.

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As a child I specialized in fingers and toes,
dipping quickly, as in a dish of holy water.
But now I find desire, insistent, to immerse
myself in it, stealing under its surface
splashlessly,
sinking into the bathwater warmth of it,
finding it breathable and good to drink.
Making a home of it, deep in the depths of it,
where eyes can see for miles
through the blue of it,
where all needs converge,
liquefied into the very element
of which we are, mostly.
Finding common space there,
and communion. There is no need
to surface. I may stay here,
throughout my second half,
slowly softening, becoming,
myself, immaterial,
until I can be seen no more
but am consumed by stillness,
needing body no more than
prayer necessitates words.

Perhaps the last thing the world needs is another poem about prayer. The masters have tackled the subject, from Christina Rossetti to George Herbert to Milton. And yet the subject is never exhausted. Why? Because prayer has special significance and meaning to each of us. We continually find new means of prayer, new ways of reaching out and touching God. Hopefully, we will never lose our fascination with prayer.

Prayer:
need and praise
forced out like air from a drowning man.
Comfort and itch,
solace and sword
(Lord, smite my enemies
because they are mine!).
Swift warbled chorus,
threads in a tapestry;
poorly baked pudding
imploding under the weight
of unworthy eggs.
Tower and sinkhole, both.
Sincere as the wail of an infant,
prayer ascends. Where does it go?
There are two possibilities, equally ridiculous:
That we are shouting at the sky, dumb with clouds,
placid to our panic
or
that God hears it all.
We are answered enough to know
it is the latter.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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