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Stringfellow on Friday – prayer

OK, before you go on, this post contains the F-word. Seriously. And I wouldn’t want to offend you by not warning you of what is to come.

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?

3 thoughts on “Stringfellow on Friday – prayer

  1. I hate the trivial use of bad language in every day conversation and I once would have baulked at what I am about to say now-but in my life I have known times when only the obscene seemed sufficient to describe the situation. It is often the language of despair and should be recognised when it occupies this ground.

    My God was big enough to handle it.

  2. Isn’t it Noam Chomsky who believes that actual communication between humans is simply impossible, that it’s far too nuanced and loaded with assumption to be effective? This said – and I know most of us do the best we can day in/out – exclamations of frustration (expletives and their friggin silly substitutes) are, I think, more honest than a lot of alternatives.

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