Art and LiteraturePoetry

Do We Have a Prayer

Do we have a prayer to get us out of Purgatory                                     1
That space we wander between loss and Resurrection
Where Hades and Heaven mingle and we are engulfed
Is there a cock to crow us awake for the blessed journey
A fine feathered friend to give us direction                                             5
Away from wrath so we may be healed

“The prayer of a righteous man availeth much”
There is no hope to be found in that promise for me
I could swear I confessed but there is no fruit
No taking up my bed to walk the way and such                                    10
I recline on the seventh terrace watching attentively
As wakefulness goes and my strength follows suit

The peripatetic path of prayer is pedagogy and practice
I put my hand into my pocket and finger the knots
Does the spirit pray on my behalf when I know I ought                     15
“Lord Jesus…me, a sinner” and the other words I miss
I need someone to sing with to get through the other spots
Someone who has actually learned what I have been taught

“Teach us to pray” is like asking “Teach us to cry intelligibly”
Finally making out the sobbing plaint, “I want my daddy!”              20
But conversation comes more easily to me than crying
And then the only thing I can seem to talk about is me
Or only him, if the conversation happens to be on a Sunday
Really the reason for prayer isn’t talking but wanting

Sometimes you have to quit praying and wash your face                  25
Eat a little honey for refreshment of strength and soul
Hit the road with nothing in your hand but peace
But don’t exult because you put the demons in their place
It is where your name is remembered that makes you whole
And the one who remembers you, his prayers never cease               30

Line 1: I’m reading “Purgatorio” by Dante. Although the setting is in a space between death and Paradise, it is really intended to be instructive to the space we live in, preparing for the age to come.
Line 2: The Lenten season
Line 3: Luke 16:26 “…Between us and you is a great gulf fixed…”
Line 4: The meanings of the names Virgil and Beatrice
Line 5: An angel, drawn from “Purgatorio” and from Tobit
Line 7,9: James 5:26
Line 10: Mark 2:3-12
Line 11: “Purgatorio” Canto XXV
Line 14: Reference to a prayer rope, or chotki
Line 15: Romans 8:26
Line 16: The Jesus prayer. The missing words are “Son of God, have mercy on”. The Jesus prayer is often said alone, as a part of an individual learning to pray without ceasing.
Line 17: We sing “Lord, have mercy” in response to each petition of the litanies in the Liturgy
Line 20: How many times have we had to have a child repeat what they were sobbing out before we could make out this basic request? It’s the most basic and most genuine desire we can express.
Line 21: A wordy prayer is an easier activity than a true cry for help, because we are often talking to ourselves, and not really listening.
Line 25: ii Samuel 12:20
Line 26: i Samuel 14:24-29
Line 27: Luke 10:1-6
Line 28,29: Luke 10:20
Line 30: Romans 8:23-28

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

A Northerner by upbringing, Kenneth has lived in the South since his (first) college days. After returning to college, he began to do more than just dabble with writing, and has self-published a children's picture book, a middle-reader's book, and several collections of poetry. Baptized in the Roman Catholic church, raised in the fundamentalist Baptist church, and having spent time in the Reformed Baptist church, Kenneth settled down in the Eastern Orthodox church in 2006.

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