Anything Can Be A Prayer

I Happened to Be Standing

Mary Oliver

I don't know where prayers go,
     or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
     half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
     crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
     growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
     along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
     of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can't really
     call being alive
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
     or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that's their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don't know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn't persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don't. That's your business.
But I thought, of the wren's singing, what could this be
     if it isn't a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

2 thoughts on “Anything Can Be A Prayer

  1. I take a breath in and breathe it out slowly. This is my prayer; unconsciously done most of the time. Your poem is beautiful!

  2. I really appreciated the statement ‘I don’t know where prayers go, or what they do’. There is clearly an existential element at the core of this statement, and it brings to mind the importance of searching for the meaning and motivation for prayer. Clearly, a prayer can be many things to many people. And I would venture that it does not matter – as long as connection is the result. The statement “I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe or whatever you don’t. That’s your business” resonated with me as it leaves the door open for a deeper exploration of a prayer – no matter the motivation or the source of the prayer. “So I just listened, my pen in the air.” This is so powerful and reminds me that sometimes it is enough to have pen in hand in eager anticipation of a revelation from God.

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