Thursday, March 27, 2008

Prayers Plainly Spoken - 5

This ends my short series on Hauerwas' Prayers Plainly Spoken. Some of the prayers are irreverent and raw, as indeed are some biblical Psalms. What do you make of the following sort of prayer?

In the aftermath of hurricane Fran:

'... What are we to say to you: Are you in the hurricane? We fear acknowledging that you may be. We want to protect you. Do we dare to believe that Christ could still the winds? We want our world regular, predictable, not subject to disorder or chaos. So if you are in the hurricane, please just butt out. We confess we have lost the skill to see you in your creation. We pray to you to care for those injured, those in shock, those without housing, those in despair, but how can you do so if you are not in the hurricane? We confess we do not know how to put this together' (105-106)


Prayers Plainly Spoken - 4

Hauerwas introduces his prayer, No Rose Garden, but How About Some Daises?, with these words: 'I wrote this prayer in response to a particularly egregious act by a member of the divinity school community that brought shame on the school'.

'WIERD LORD, you never promised us a rose garden, but right now we could use a few daises or zinnias. We feel confused, unsure of where we are, angry because a wrong has been done, and we are unsure who to blame. It ought to be somebody's fault, but even the one who is to blame is so pathetic it hardly seems worth the effort [!!!!!]... Work on us to make us a community of truthfulness' (84).

Well, I thought that was really funny!


Prayers Plainly Spoken - 3

Theology as a Way to Control You

REVEALING AND TERRIFYING GOD, whose very revelation is mystery, forgive our frightened attempts to possess you. You have created us for yourself, but we find that hard to believe, much less live. So we strut across your creation as if we really understood you. Theology becomes our way to try to be in control, dear God, even of you. So was ask for the humility that comes from the unavoidable recognition that you insist on our being your people. What an extraordinary thing. AMEN

(From pg. 54)

From the prayer Virtues of Fear and Hate:

'Give us the virtue of love that we might rightly hate that which is hateful' (59)

From the prayer: A Prayer to the Jester King

'FUNNY LORD, Jester King, you are surely a strange God. You must have an extraordinary sense of humor to trust your kingdom to a people like us' (62)


Prayers Plainly Spoken - 2

The following prayer is a good example of the disarming honesty Hauerwas seeks:

Living Confessions of Love

LORD OF ALL LIFE, we come before you not knowing who we are. We strut our stuff, trying to impress others with our self-confidence. In the process we hope to be what we pretend. Save us from such pretense, that we might learn who we are through trust in you to make us more than we can imagine. Help us, Augustine-like, to reread our lives as confessions of sin made possible by your love. Bind up our wounds and our joys so that our lives finally make sense only as a prayer to you.


(From pg. 29)


Prayers Plainly Spoken - 1

Thanks to the kind folk at Wipf and Stock for a copy of Stanley Hauerwas' Prayers Plainly Spoken. 1999. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003.

Now that my health has started to return, I will write a series of posts today on Hauerwas' little book. This is a curious selection of prayers, vibrantly and almost heretically honest (like many of the biblical Psalms), and often amusing. So Hauerwas writes that 'these prayers are not "holy"' (12)! He continues: 'If anything, these prayers are plain. They are so because I discovered I could not pray differently than I speak. In other words, I thought it would be a mistake to try to assume a different identity when I prayed. I figured (Texans 'figure') that God could take it, because God did not need to be protected. I think I learned this over the years by praying the Psalms in church. God does not want us to come to the altar different from how we live the rest of our lives. Therefore I do not try to be pious or use pious language in these prayers. I try to speak plainly, yet I hope with some eloquence, since nothing is more eloquent than simplicity' (13).

These prayers were originally prayed in Hauerwas' Duke divinity school classroom on a variety of occasions, and to quote some book blurb, they show how 'Christians can pray with all the passion, turbulence and life of the ancient psalmists'.

However, by 'plain' he certainly does not mean they are not thought through. '[I]t is my hope that these prayers reflect what I have learned about what it means to be a Christian'. He continues: 'Prayer is our most determinative speech. Any theology, therefore, that is finally not about helping us to pray cannot be Christian. In an odd way, then, this book represents the most important testing of my theological work' (15).

In the following few posts, today, I'll be offering some of Hauerwas' prayers, for discussion, enlightenment, encouragement, and most of all – to pray.