My Dear God

Flannery O’Connor Illustration by Greg Ruth

Sunday July 28th Gospel Reading: The Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:1-4 ESV

“Father, hallowed be your name. 

Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread,

And forgive us our sins,

For we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

Alas, my summer reading has not included fun beach books, as I’ve been preparing to teach a class on Spiritual Formation this Fall.  However, my discovery of Flannery O’Connor’s, A Prayer Journal has been like landing on a beach on a small island oasis. (Please Read my blog “I Love You to the Moon and Back.”)

O’Connor was an American novelist known for her short stories, but also a faithful Catholic who kept a prayer journal discovered and published after her death. She addressed her prayers to, “My dear God.”  Surely Flannery recited the Lord’s Prayer many times by memory, but she said, “I do not mean to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life; but I have been saying them and not feeling them.” Her prayer journal reveals the struggle for grace and her deep love for God.

Being raised a Catholic myself, The Lord’s Prayer has always been part of our family prayers at church, family gatherings, trips, and times of crisis.  When you don’t have the right words, it seems perfect to follow Jesus’ lead, “When you pray, say…”

Before you read any further, take time to read The Lord’s Prayer, whether you read from Luke 11 or Matthew 6, use Thee and Thou or a modern version, sit with the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray.

Practicing the Lord’s Prayer.  As a guideline for this spiritual practice, there is a guided visualization or meditation with a prayer for each phrase of the Biblical version of the Lord’s prayer. I have also included Flannery O’Connor’s prayers. You are invited to respond with personal meditation and prayer in your own heart words.

Adoration: “Father, hallowed be your name.”

Visualize. You are in the presence of a loving, caring Father God who has all power and authority from his position as Creator King.  Address the Divine with the name you are most comfortable with and that connect your heart to the transcendent one who delights to spend time with you.  Sit with this name and expand your prayer.

 Pray. Father God I Come into Your Loving Presence. You are higher and holier than my thoughts can imagine. I bow in worship before your splendor and majesty. I am humbled and amazed at your desire to see me and to listen to my heart’s desires. Let your name be holy in my words and actions.

Worship. We are guided to balance a “family” relationship with the Father God with reverence for the holiness of God’s name. Spend some moments visualizing and experiencing God’s majesty in song or praise.  “Holy, Holy, Holy are you Lord God.” “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” Psalms 8:1

Flannery O’Connor on Adoration:  “I cannot comprehend the exaltation that must be due You. Intellectually, I assent: let us adore God. But can we do that without feeling? To feel, we must know. And for this, when it is practically impossible for us to get it ourselves, not completely, of course, but what we can, we are dependent on God for our adoration of Him…Give me the grace, dear God, to adore You, for even this I cannot do for myself. Give me the grace to be impatient for the time when I shall see You face to face and need no stimulus than that to adore You. Give me the grace, dear God, to see the bareness and the misery of the places where You are not adored but desecrated.

Submission: “Your kingdom come.” 

Visualize. Your reverence in front of a holy God leads to your submission to the authority and guidance of God’s Spirit.  Allow the Spirit to speak to you about your part in the kingdom of God. In a physical way such as palms up or kneeling, make yourself available to God’s will. Pray. Lord of All, have your Way in my life, my community, our world. I want to be a witness and a servant for Your Kingdom and bring about Your will on earth.  Here I am Lord, I lay down my plans. Use me and mold me into your image.”

It’s really not about us as Flannery O’Connor’s prayer puts submission into plain words: “My dear God, how stupid we people are until You give us something…”

Supplication: “Give us each day our daily bread.”

Visualize. Jesus frees us as God’s children to ask for our daily needs.  Express your needs and desires freely without fear, and with gratitude for your many blessings. Think about the important word “our” and ask what you can do in both prayer and action for the needs of others. 

Pray. Help me today with what I need as well as for others who are hungry. Provider God, grant your favor and blessing for my life, my family, my community and for these special people in my life…

Flannery O’Connor on Supplication: “My dear God, Supplication. This is the only one of the four (types of prayer) I am competent in. It takes no supernatural grace to ask for what one wants and I have asked You bountifully, oh Lord. I believe it is right to ask You…but I don’t want to overemphasize this angle of my prayers. 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.”

Contrition: “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”

Visualize. Go back through the last 24 hours and reflect on your words, actions, and heart motives. Take time to remember through the morning, afternoon, and evening. Freely confess and freely forgive as sins and debts come to mind.

Pray. Forgive me Divine Compassion, for I have sinned against you.  Please keep working on my heart and transform my thoughts and actions to be more pleasing to you. Show me where I can offer compassion and forgiveness to the other.

Flannery O’Connor on Contrition: “Contrition in me is largely imperfect. I don’t know if I’ve ever been sorry for a sin because it hurt You. That kind of contrition is better than none but it is selfish. To have the other kind, it is necessary to have knowledge, faith extraordinary. All boils down to grace, I suppose. Again, asking God to help us be sorry for having hurt Him.”

Grace: “And lead us not into temptation.”

Visualize. Turn your thoughts and prayers to what’s ahead in life. Place your hopes and fears in God’s strong hands for protection. Pray. I ask for the grace, favor and protection I need for what may come against me. I am weak Lord, but you are strong.  Help me keep from turning weakness into opportunities to sin. Protect me from the evil one in the name and power of Jesus Christ.

Flannery O’Connor on Grace: All my requests seem to melt down to one for grace—that supernatural grace that does what ever it does. 

All O’Connor quotes from My Dear God: A Young writer’s Prayers, by Flannery O’Connor, The New Yorker, Sept 9, 2013. Also A Prayer Journal, by Flannery O’Connor, editor W. A. Sessions, 2013.

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