Someone asked me just the other day—“why pray?”
To re-align our own intent or seek to change God’s mind?
Our measure here as ever is “what does Jesus say?”
I have always reasoned praying as the faithful way
to sing along in steady tune with plans divine.
Then someone asked me recently: why pray?
Does the Holy One take attendance day by day,
counting my requests like mileposts in a line?
Is this how Jesus urges us to pray?
The monks before me paved the way,
petitionary hours their cloister walk entwined.
Did anyone inquire of them: why pray?
Acres of print ‘cross ancient pages splay,
prayer-filled tomes for every day designed:
To all of this loquacity, what would Jesus say?
We beg our God for daily bread, not offer it as pay,
our asking not ourselves to fetter but unbind.
Still someone asked again the other day: why pray?
Plead your patient unrelenting need for mercy, I hear Jesus say.
* This poem was inspired by a rich and multi-layered Wild Goose conversation with Tony Jones, in which he challenged us to discuss the purpose of prayer from a particularly Christian apologetic perspective. The villanelle form (like much liturgical prayer) provides a set structure inside which one can find a lot of freedom for adaptation and exploration, but which (also like set liturgical prayer) can have its limitations.