Heaven is reached, the blessed say,
by prayer and by no other way.
One may kneel down and make a plea
with words from book or breviary,
or one may enter in and find
a home-made message in the mind.
But true prayer travels further still,
to seek God’s presence and God’s will.
To pray can be to push a door
and snatch some crumbs of evermore,
or (likelier by far) to wait,
head bowed, before a fastened gate,
helpless and miserable and dumb,
yet hopeful that the Lord will come.
Here is the prayer of grace and good
most proper to our creaturehood.
God’s window shows his humble one
more to the likeness of His Son.
He sees, though thought and senses stray,
the will is resolute to stay
and feed, in weathers sweet or grim,
on any word that speaks of Him.
He beams on the humility
that keeps its peace in misery
and, save for glimmerings, never knows
how beautiful with light it grows.
He smiles on faith that seems to know
it has no other place to go.
But some day, hidden by His will,
if this meek child is waiting still,
God will take out His mercy-key
and open up felicity,
where saltiest tears are given right
to seas where sapphire marries light,
where by each woe the soul can span
new orbits for the utter man,
where even the flesh, so seldom prized,
would blind the less than divinized.
Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.
Prayer (1951; 1984)
Powers, J 1999, The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Featured image: Evening Prayer by Antoine-Émile Plassan (French, 1817-1903) was executed in oil on panel c. 1863–1864. This artwork comes from the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. The gallery label provides the following information:
A young woman, wearing a white blouse with her shoulders bared and a long black skirt, kneels in prayer beside her bed. The furnishings of this contemporary bourgeois interior include a colorful oriental rug, a turned mahogany candlestand carrying a brass double candleholder, and an upholstered Louis XV-style armchair. Partially concealed by the pink silk bed curtains is a framed crucifix. Single-figured boudoir scenes, such as this work, were the mainstay of Plassan’s oeuvre. A very similar composition, with the same figure and candlestand, entitled “La Prière,” was sold at Sotheby’s in London, July 21, 1976, no. 45, dated 1862.