Mary Oliver and Prayer

A good friend has been sending me a poem almost every day. I wrote this one, by Mary Oliver, into my journal entry this morning, and then I wanted to share it with you. I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer (my family has been doing a lot of praying and hymn singing, and we’re getting ready to do us some more!), and reading this poem kind of affirmed the rightness of it all.

I don’t have a copy of this poem, in a book, I mean, and it’s represented variously on the Internet, so I apologize for any weirdness in these beautiful lines.

I Happened To Be Standing

I don't know where prayers go,
     or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
     half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
     crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
     growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
     along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
     of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can't really
     call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
     or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don't know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don't. That's your business.
But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be
     if it isn't a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

To hear Mary Oliver read her poem, visit this blogpost at On Being.

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