the prayers we struggle to pray

I’m in the middle of reading Marilynne Robinson’s Home at the moment . It’s sort of a companion piece to her heart-breakingly beautiful novel Gilead. I’ve been particularly moved by the prayers the characters pray — or rather that they struggle to pray. Either because they can’t find the words. Or because they can’t bring themselves to be that honest.

What am I talking about? Take this, for example — a prayer Glory, the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, can’t quite bring herself to pray (pp 71-72):

So she prayed, Lord, give me patience. She knew that was not an honest prayer, and she did not linger over it. The right prayer would have been, Lord, my brother treats me like a hostile stranger, my father seems to have put me aside, I feel I have no place here in what I thought would be my refuge, I am miserable and bitter at heart, and old fears are rising up in me so that everything I do makes everything worse.

If only we had the courage to pray the prayers we struggle to! And I don’t simply mean bearing our hearts in a self-flagellating (and strangely judgemental) gesture of confession for confession’s sake. But handing our real doubts, anxieties, resentments and unresolved enmities over to God in prayer. And, in doing so, seeing them transmuted into utterances of faith…

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