Prayers for Thanksgiving from Flannery O’Connor

IMG_1571With all our rushing to the grocery, scurrying around the stove, and waiting on line to pick up a turkey, it’s easy to overlook the opportunity to observe Thanksgiving in any true sense. I, too, am about to head to the kitchen, where I’ll spend the better part of the day. But before I do, I’m taking a moment to read a new offering from Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964), one of the greats in American literature.

Last week saw the publication of A Prayer Journal, a slim volume that records O’Connor’s dialogue with God while she was a 20-something writing student at the University of Iowa. Though the 1946–47  journal only recently surfaced among her papers in Georgia, O’Connor’s Christian perspective is familiar to readers of her fiction. A devout believer and a member of the Catholic faith, her short stories and novels deal openly with the ideas of sin, redemption, and grace.

Like her fiction, her prayers blend strong devotion and faith with moments of irreverence and wit. Here are a few spiritual kernels for you to chew on before tomorrow’s feast.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

“[I]t all brings me to thanksgiving, the third thing to include in prayer. When I think of all I have to be thankful for I wonder that You don’t just kill me now because You’ve done so much for me already & I haven’t been particularly grateful.”

“Please let Christian principles permeate my writing and please let there be enough of my writing (published) for Christian principles to permeate.”

“I don’t want to believe in hell but in heaven. . . Help me to feel that I will give up every earthly thing for this. I do not mean becoming a nun.”

“Dear God, tonight it is not disappointing because you have given me a story. Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story—just like the typewriter was mine.”

“My dear God, how stupid we people are until You give us something. . . . I would like to write a beautiful prayer but I have nothing to do it from. There is a whole sensible world around me that I should be able to turn to Your praise; but I cannot do it. Yet at some insipid moment when I may possibly be thinking of floor wax or pigeon eggs, the opening of a beautiful prayer may come up from my subconscious and lead me to write something exalted.”

“Help me to ask You, oh Lord, for what is good for me to have, for what I can have and do Your service by having.”

“Sin is large & stale. You can never finish eating it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited. But perhaps that is too literary a statement—this mustn’t get insincere.”

“I am a mediocre of the spirit but there is hope. I am at least of the spirit and that means alive.”

“I don’t want to be doomed to mediocrity in my feeling for Christ. I want to feel. I want to love. Take me, dear Lord, and set me in the direction I am to go.”

“My thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well not have made me. . . . Today I have proved myself a glutton—for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There is nothing left to say of me.”


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