Prayer and poetry (via Christian Century)

I’m not that good at either one.

I know, this is an odd confession for a pastor to make. You don’t like to hear your pastor saying, “I’m no good at praying.” And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t pray. It’s just that I am apt to compare myself with people who seem to be able to go on and on, pray aloud for hours with no notes. When I pray aloud, I admit, I’m always afraid I’m going to get myself into a sentence I can’t get out of. My prayers tend to be short, inelegant, a little undisciplined.

I love both poetry and prayer, even though I confess to being good at neither one. I love the formal prayers in my prayer books, eloquent and elegant. I notice that some of these prayers are poetic, using literary devices and structures: metaphors, allusions, alliteration. I love all kinds of poetry, too: from the deceptive simplicity of Robert Frost and Mary Oliver, to the complex rhymes and dense metaphors of Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Donne. And I have tried writing a little poetry too. Though I admire sonnets from a distance, and have even memorized a few, the complexities of rhyme and meter have so far eluded me. Like I said, I am not good at it.

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Christian Century

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