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A Prayer Journal Hardcover – November 12, 2013
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It should be judged by its texture and depth. And for this reason I consider the book to be essential. The prayers O'Connor has written create a landscape for prayer utterly original in the Christian tradition, if also deeply embedded in it.
I am reading one prayer per night, sometimes two. They are leading me into new spiritual insights each time. I see myself in new ways through her prayers.
The book also includes a facsimile of the journal itself. It's really a pleasure to be able to see her hand-writing first hand, to imagine her as a young student writing each day in this journal.
I guarantee if you buy this book, when it arrives, you will do more than read it. You will cherish it.
The first half of "A Prayer Journal" is introduced by W.A. Sessions, who visited and corresponded with O'Connor during those years. Then for the next several pages are the prayers of O'Connor, aesthetically cleaned up and mildly re-punctuated. The last half presents facsimiles of the original handwritten journal.
The prayers show the soul-wrestling of a young woman who believed, and prayed God to help her unbelief, "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 are fond of saying" (16). At times they contain a depth beyond her chronological years, "No one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. The devil is the greatest believer & he has his reasons" (25). And at other times they reveal how human and "normal" the young woman was, "My thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well not have made me...There is nothing left to say of me" (40).
In the end, "A Prayer Journal" will add some flesh and calico to a reader's conception of who Flannery O'Connor was. More often than not, you will likely find yourself adding your own "Amen" to her prayers. For example, while writing about heaven, she pleads "I don't want to fear to be out, I want to love to be in" (6). This is a worthwhile manuscript to pick up and read, especially for fellow O'Connor lovers.
Reading this prayer journal has been especially poignant for me, as I too was once a graduate student at the University of Iowa, after attending a tiny liberal arts college as an undergraduate--but nearly forty years after Flannery O'Connor studied writing there. She and I studied in the same classrooms and even attended the same local parish, St. Mary's. Like Flannery, I found my time at the U of I tested my faith, so I appreciate her articulation of her trials and aspirations that, in many ways, echo my own.
I must say that I found the editor's introduction rather obtuse -- like so many people in the literary world, Sessions seems to have a blind spot when it comes to O'Connor's spirituality. But that just makes it all the more evident how remarkable Flannery O'Connor was, to be able to achieve what she did in an intellectual milieu that hardly knew what to make of her.
Requiescat in pace, Miss O'Connor.
Top international reviews
Her vulnerability and youthful energy and desire are evident in her prayers, and after reading this journal, I feel I can better understand her later writings in a new light.
Reading her prayers, I was encouraged by her constant desire to follow and honour God in a new refreshing way, rather than just reciting rote words that did not express her longings.
I felt honoured to read these private writings as both insight into her life, but also as an encouragement to authentically engage with God.