Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mary Karr on Prayer

Mary Karr is the author of the bestselling 1995 memoir The Liars' Club, its sequel Cherry, and the recently published third installment Lit. She is also an award-winning poet. Lit covers the period of her alcoholism and move to sobriety, her failed marriage, and her conversion to Christ via her entrance into the Roman Catholic Church.

In an interview with Jon Sweeney in the pages of Books and Culture (March/April 2010, p. 15), Karr made this comment about prayer - "I pray not from being particularly devoted or righteous, but because I'm particularly desperate." It seems to me that desperation is at the heart of some of my (our) most passionate and deepest prayers. I do pray out of devotion, my love for our Triune God of grace. I do pray out of being righteous, that sense of trying to do what pious people do. My prayers of devotion are truly inward and meaningful but not always enduring. My prayers of righteousness are often short, mechanical, and of a surface nature. But my prayers of desperation come from deep within my soul, can be blood-stained, and cry out for God's intervention and mercy.

Paul Miller in his book A Praying Life makes the point that our best prayers come from a realization that God is both infinitely powerful and infinitely caring. I pray because God can accomplish what I can't. I pray because God truly cares about me even if I feel I'm simply a speck of dust in his vast, immeasurable universe.

An infinitely powerful and caring God understands our desperation and desires to turn it into devotion. How so? We cry out in desperation. God hears and answers. Our gratitude gives birth to devotion. But what about when God does not hear and answer our desperate cries as we wish? Devotion can still bloom if we grapple with the fact that our infinitely good God knows what is best for us and, because of this, sometimes denies us what we so urgently desire. Unanswered prayer is answered prayer.

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