In the beginning we think
that prayer is an option,
a contingency plan,
a last resort.
Then life happens to us.
Reality floods us.
Life gathers us into bundles
and teaches us survival skills
as, one by one and sometimes
all together, it pushes us
out of the boat and directly into
the white water current
of our rushed and rushing lives.
As we right our capsized vessels
time after time and climb into them again,
as we right ourselves over and over yet tumble we will,
we learn the humbling essence of things.
We learn the prayer imperative.
We come to comprehend
the theological meanings
of prevenient* prayer and abandon
convenient prayer as an arrogant notion.
We need the Grace that comes before us,
the Grace that comes with us,
and the Grace that comes after us
to make the repairs.
This is where prevenient prayer
meets prevenient Grace.
The Grace that comes before us
reveals an indwelling Grace,
rounding the rough edges
in the chaos of all the way through.
In the violent current one cannot swim,
let alone do so gracefully.
One can only pray and practice
strokes of contrast and strokes of oneness,
now surrendering to the Larger Life
of driven water, now fighting for dear lifeâ€”
with no time for conscious trust, until
the accidental Mercy of movement positions us
where we could never know we needed to be
and we’re saved, or accidental Grace suddenly
gives us the insight of how to float between waves.
Then we’ll find ourselves no longer seized
by turbulence but, perhaps with
post-traumatic tremble, in a calm state
that could be heaven or could be wisdom.
Therefore, I prayâ€”
Great Loving Mystery, precede me in every thought and act~
Succeed me through every challenging moment~
Recede me from every danger of harm to body or soul.
Come before me to create a pathway.
Come beside me to hold me on course.
Come after me to mend all the messes.
The inevitable messes.
Keep one hand on my shoulder
and one hand over my mouth,
as the wise ones pray.
Prepare and repair my paths and my ways,
and do so for all my loved ones and foes
through the length of our days.
And this is my hourly prayer,
day by day and night unto night.
Sometimes it is the prayer
that I breathe.
At the end of my life
I shall have become all prayer.
*Prevenient prayer is prayer before making a decision or taking an action. Prevenient grace is “divine grace that precedes human decision” and action.