I’m wondering if you have come across the work of Rachel Phifer?
I’m kind of hoping not, because then you will have heard about it first from me and be incredibly grateful to me for alerting you to it – kudos, kudos!!
She’s just had her first novel published in July – called The Language of Sparrows. Already she has more reviews on Amazon than you can shake a stick at, all basically saying you have to read this book. I suspect that if you take a few minutes to read the ‘Look Inside’ pages on Amazon, you will agree with them. One of those writers who know how to do that thing they always used to say about crossing the road: STOP LOOK LISTEN.
This is Rachel in her garden:
She’s written a thing specially for us, about the prayer of St Francis, and I just loved it.
This is what she wrote:
There were times that “Help!” was the only prayer I could come up with. Sometimes for months at a time. It’s not such a bad prayer, really. It’s honest. It’s direct. But that little word didn’t begin to address the depth of need I felt.
About twenty years ago, in the midst of unemployment, broken friendships and a long period of blue days, I stumbled across a book with The Prayer of St. Francis written in the back. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, it began, where there is hatred, let me sow love.
I didn’t have to read very far into the prayer to know it had the words I’d been searching for. So in the mornings, I would make my way out of bed half an hour earlier, and curl up in my hand-me-down gold chair. I’d say the prayer slowly, trying to concentrate on each word. I’d say it twice more, and in the end, I’d whisper the words at the end of each line: peace, love, pardon, faith, hope, light, joy, console, understand, love, pardoning, giving, eternal life.
It was a bit odd for me. I was raised in a Baptist family and I’d never heard anyone reciting a prayer. There was even a niggling worry that repeating a prayer was the “babbling of many useless words” from Matthew 6.
But it wasn’t just a recitation, and it certainly wasn’t useless. It was a prayer spoken to God, with words I hadn’t known I wanted to say. And to tell you the truth, my old chair seemed like a temple for a while.
It was such a relief to come to God with words I hadn’t known I wanted to say, asking to be something nobler and deeper than I would ever have known I wanted to be. I’m not saying that I became a walking prayer of St. Francis. The truth is, I still had blue days. I was still a sinner. But I began to sense God inhabiting my days.
I’d like to say that I’ve kept the practice of praying the prayer over a lifetime. But I can’t. I’m not that disciplined. Still, when I can’t find the words I need, it’s an anchor to come back to.
I’m a working mom and a writer. So there have been quite a few times, when I’ve been too exhausted even to pray those two stanzas of the St. Francis prayer. But the practice itself of saying words that aren’t my own still sustains me.
One minister thrown into a communist prison and tortured said he forgot every prayer he’d ever learned, but he remembered to pray, “Jesus!” I’m not that hard pressed. No matter how exhausted I am, I can always recite something like, “In You I live and move and have my being” (Acts 17) or “This is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118)
There are always words to fill the dark spaces with light and the empty spaces with God’s presence.
Thank you, Rachel, so much.