Friday, January 09, 2015

Poetry and Prayer

One of the things I do when I am seeking to be centered in my spiritual journey and my devotional life that may seem unusual to some is that I read poetry. This may come as a surprise to many of you. I am not a good poetry person. As a matter of fact, I had all "A"s in my college career except for a B in poetry my freshman year at Trinity College (now Trinity International University). And the poetry I have written in the past is hopelessly cheesy. 

I like reading poetry as a part of my prayer and study because it slows me down. It makes me pay attention to words, which then helps me attend better to the words of theologians, God's Word, and my words in prayer. 

These words spoke to me today:


There is too much pain
I cannot understand
I cannot pray
I cannot pray for all the little ones with bellies bloated by starvation in India;
for all the angry Africans striving to be separate in a world struggling for wholeness;
for all the young Chinese men and women taught that hatred and killing are good and compassion evil;
or even all the frightened people in my own city looking for truth in pot or acid.
Here I am
and the ugly man with beery breath beside me reminds me that it is not my prayers that waken your concern, my Lord;
my prayers, my intercessions are not to ask for your love
for all your lost and lonely ones,
your sick and sinning souls,
but mine, my love, my acceptance of your love.
Your love for the woman sticking her umbrella and her expensive parcels into my ribs and snarling, “Why don’t you watch where you are going?”
Your love for the long-haired, gum chewing boy who shoves the old lady aside to grab a seat,
Your love for me, too, too tired to look with love,
to tired to look at Love, at you, in every person on the bus.
Expand my love, Lord, so I can help to bear the pain,
help your love move my love into the tired prostitute with false eyelashes and bunioned feet,
the corrupt policeman with his hand open for graft,
the addict, the derelict, the woman in the mink coat and discontented mouth,
the high school girl with heavy books and frightened eyes.
Help me through these scandalous particulars
to understand
your love.
Help me to pray.

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

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