As with most high school populations, I have students of all spiritual stripes – believers, seekers, dreamers, hopers, doubters. So, when I stumbled upon a prompt for prayer in Georgia Heard’s wonderful book Writing Toward Home, I thought it would meet my diverse group wherever they were. All prompts in Heard’s book draw on the past and the introspective, on reminiscences and musings to generate memories for drafting memoirs or vignettes. But for this prompt, Heard suggests the writer call out to the universe and ask for some kind of blessing, for simplicity or courage or wit.
To launch a long day of drafting vignettes, I introduced the idea of writing a prayer, and my students were intrigued. I explained that while a prayer may or may not be religious, it’s true power lies in the petition itself, the framing of a supplication. The power of prayer lies, I suggested to them, in the clarity and self-awareness required in the act of asking for something.
Their prayers overwhelmed and touched me. I have posted some of them below.
Dear Universe, Please give me stories to tell. Give me bizarre encounters with strangers and hilarious absurd misfortunes, give me whirlwind romances and heartbreak so devastating I can fill a whole notebook with it. Give me journeys to unfamiliar places, allow me to get lost for days, to break rules and try new things, meet new people. Give me grief, rage, infatuation, regret, fear, shame. Give me stories. Amen.
Please fix these broken walls I’ve smashed in anger for I felt incompetent. My writing just gets by, it’s nothing great. I lack inspiration, a set muse. The foundations of my inner house crumble. There is not a front door, only a worn frame. Ideas do not linger long in the cold and I find myself chasing after them only to find they’ve disappeared. Gone. I sit in silence. Waiting. Waiting for what will never come. Please help me fix my house. Help me find my muse. Create a warm friendly place where ideas will want to grow and prosper. To anyone who will listen; to anyone who cares; I pray for my inspiration.
Thank you God for all the gifts you have given me and for Jesus and the sacraments, and the Oreos, and other sacred things. Thank you for letting Stanford lose, I really appreciate it. But God, I want to ask you today for something important. I need inspiration, a continuous stream of it, so I’ll never have to stare blankly at a piece of notebook paper ever again. Also I could use a good notebook, so I don’t have to use a single piece of paper again. And I’m not trying to be a nag or anything but where were you at Notre Dame’s last game?! I mean, come on, it’s your wife’s team, we really needed you. Don’t disappoint me at the BYU game. Amen.
Give me the strength to get over myself. Fill me with humility, with graciousness, with anti-ego and radiance. I have been blessed in my life and want to bless others. Give me the strength to communicate in a way that is meaningful. Wrap my knuckles and tendons and fingernails in lubricant, not so I can pleasure myself, but can pleasure others with pen or key strokes. I have lived happily in my life and want to bring happy to others. Give me the strength to be satisfied in my life, but still look to the heavens.
Lord thank you for all that you have blessed me with. You have given me a pen. You have given me a paper. You have given me a support system. You have given me a head full of thoughts. You blessed have blessed me infinitely. Forever I am yours for this. Just one or two quick questions: Do I have what it takes? Can I make a living off this? Thank you again for those blessings. Amen.
I am afraid of losing the desire, the juice that keeps me writing. I am afraid that it will be finished with me before I am finished with it. Please, make sure that it never goes away. I love the desire, the motivation to write. If it leaves me, I will not know what to do. It keeps me inspired and driving. Will you make sure that it never goes away? Will you make sure that the feeling of contentment that I feel when I sit down at a keyboard or stare at a piece of paper stays with me until the end?