Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Unfinished Epistles and Prayer

“I have never felt comfortable praying. I almost feel I should put the word in quotes, as I’m never quite sure that what I do deserves the name. I have a litany of stations through which I move—thank you, help me, be with, forgive—but mostly I simply (simply!) try to subject myself to the possibility of God. I address God as if.” Christian Wiman My Bright Abyss

These are the words I have felt but have been unable to put to sense: “I address God as if.”

To “address God as if” is to acknowledge the possibility of God and to then step forward in [an attempt at] conversation. To address someone is to honor their humanity, their personhood, their existence.


There is absolutely nothing simple or facile about calling someone into existence. It is brave. It is terrifying. It provokes the possibility of a response, of a reaction, of a relationship. And the strongly introverted would rather coexist in a sacred silence.

And so, like Wiman, I feel I should put the word in quotes when I use it, for I’m not sure either that what I do qualifies as prayer.

I write. I write God letters. Little ones. “Dear Lord, Please . . .” “Dear Lord, Fuck you . . .” “Dear Lord, Thanks . . .” Except I don’t sign them or even “amen” them. They end with a period or set of ellipses as would an unfinished epistle. And they stay rather put.

These missives never roll off my tongue or roll through my mind into a cognitively constructed parlance. Rather they roll out of the ballpoint pen, stain the paper, and are shut into the suffocating stillness between pages.

Ask me, then, do you pray?
Well. Not quite.
But rather, “I address God as if.

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