A Prayer Journal

Flannery O’Connor’s personal prayer journal was published in 2013. I do tend to feel uncomfortable with the exposure of personal writings but then I also feel ravenous for new words from favorite authors, so I nearly always read them.

A Prayer Journal is a prolonged plea for closeness to God, humble acceptance of her gifts (even if they must be mediocre), and for the literary excellence O’Connor craves. She is impatient with her own weakness and wary of pretense and ego. Often her prayers simply ask for the ability to want what she knows she should but the overriding theme is the twin desires to become both a saint and a genius.

It is a devotional work and the wrenching honesty and grief in it are steep and nearly tragic.

The books two weaknesses are it’s brevity and it’s clearly private nature. Her creative spelling and casual punctuation could be a distraction but only if you lose sight of the intelligence and clarity of her thought.

A few compelling quotations:

“Dear God, I don’t want to have invented my faith to satisfy my weakness. I don’t want to have created God to my own image as they’re so fond of saying. Please give me the necessary grace, oh Lord, and please don’t let it be as hard to get as Kafka made it.”

“no one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. The devil is the greatest believer and he has his reasons.”

“When something is finished, it cannot be possessed. Nothing can be possessed but the struggle.”

“Virtue must be the only vigorous thing in our lives. Sin is large and stale. You can never finish easting it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited.”