Stringfellow endured frequent bouts of serious illness. Indeed he almost died once whilst in hospital, due to the inattention of the medical staff. This only served to deepen his mistrust technological medicine.
But it also taught him a lot about prayer. And robust prayer at that. And he was critical of much that passed as the performance of prayer in polite Christian circles.
So here goes – and remember, you have been warned!
The event of prayer, certain acts called prayer, the very word ‘prayer’ have gathered such ridiculous associations. That is not only the case with the obscene performances, which pass as public prayer, at inaugurations, in locker rooms, before Rotary luncheons, and in many churchly sanctuaries, but also the practice of private prayer is attended by gross profanity, the most primitive superstitions, and sentimentality which is truly asinine…. When I write that my own situation [during my illness] in those months of pain and decision can be described as prayer, I do not only recall that during that time I sometimes read the Psalms and they became my psalms, or that, as I have also mentioned, I occasionally cried ‘Jesus’ and that name was my prayer, but I mean that I also at times would shout ‘Fuck!’ and that was no obscenity, but a most earnest prayerful utterance
A Second Birthday, 1970
OK, so that one-word exclamatory prayer is unlikely to find its way into the Psalter, but can it pass as prayer?