Saturday, August 11, 2007

"How Shall I Pray?" by Ted Loder

I returned a few hours ago from a week with my family in Iowa. Months ago, we planned a reunion, but my grandmother's declining health and pending death gradually overshadowed our expectations for the week. She "rallied" for the time together and was physically present quite often, though she is not always lucid. When she was alert, she enjoyed participating in or hearing about other events of the week: we updated our family portrait, we celebrated birthdays, my sister flew back from Japan, my brother surprised us, my wife and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. When it was time to leave, I struggled to wave goodbye to my grandmother; I do not expect to see her alive again in this life. The trip was an emotional roller coaster.

The day after I left for Iowa, a member of the congregation died, a dear man who has wrestled disease with such dignity that many people didn't know he was dying. Then, later in the week, another member of the congregation, a devoted wife, mother, youth leader and church leader didn't wake up Thursday morning. This is devastating news for the church.

I'm preparing a sermon for worship tomorrow and am at a loss. I found the prayer How Shall I Pray? by Ted Loder (in the collection Guerrillas of Grace) which I pray tonight. This is the entire prayer; the first half really resonates.

How shall I pray?
Are tears prayers, Lord?
Are screams prayers,
or groans
or sighs
or curses?
Can trembling hands be lifted to you,
or clenched fists
or the cold sweat that trickles down my back
or the cramps that knot my stomach?
Will you accept my prayers, Lord,
my real prayers,
rooted in the muck and the mud and the rock of my life,
and not just my pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged
bouquet of words?
Will you accept me, Lord,
as I really am,
messed up mixture of glory and grime?
Lord, help me!
Help me to trust that you do accept me as I am,
that I may be done with self-condemnation
and self-pity
and accept myself.
Help me to accept you as you are, Lord:
and yet to trust
that your madness is wiser
than my timid, self-seeking sanities,
and that nothing you've ever done
has really been possible,
so I may dare to be a little mad, too.


Blogger Roeg said...

The prayer really touched home for me. Thanks for sharing it. I'm glad your week away went well (Happy Anniversary by the way).

11/8/07 21:08  
Anonymous tixie said...

first - Happy Anniversary!

ditto what roeg said... i can relate particularly well to the knots in the stomach... more like what it must feel like to have the wind knocked out of you...

it takes sun and rain to make a rainbow...

13/8/07 10:41  
Anonymous Jen Peters McCurry said...

I can't believe how much loss that POP has experienced in these past months! I am especially sorry not to be there at times like this; the congregation and its leaders are in my prayers. Thanks for the poem that helps name the pain...

18/8/07 15:38  
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