I have been reading Flannery O’Connor. Her composed prayers were published a few years ago by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2013). I find that I have mixed feelings about that. I doubt very seriously that Miss O’Connor would have liked her private prayers being marketed by anyone. They are most private. Yet, on the other hand, Flannery O’Connor is a gift to us. Her own prayers for usefulness in the Kingdom of God were answered by the Lord in a most remarkable way. So, like W.H. Auden, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, or even her own literary mentor, T. S. Eliot, the artist’s life has become a serene source of inspiration for us. In that sense, and I think that is the deciding sense, Flannery O’Connor’s preferences for privacy give way to the greater spiritual interests that transcended her own.
One thing I have noted in her prayers is her desire to be used by the Lord. Thus, we read this (portion of a) prayer:
“Please let Christian principles permeate my writing and please let there be enough of my writing (published) for Christian principles to permeate.” A Prayer Journal, 5.
I lifted this line from the larger prayer she composed because I thought it echoed what I have prayed for so long and what I believe is a common theme of Christian artists: painters, writers, poets, musicians, actors and the lot. We each want to be faithful in our art and we pray that we can be allowed to express enough of it to be faithful. “Lord let me use whatever gifts You have given to Your glory and others’ good. But Lord please allow me the opportunity to express those gifts.”
So, we pray to our loving Creator-God to allow us to, also, create, as a reflection of His own infinitely supreme artistry; and in this pale, but sincere imitation, keep the devil, the flesh, and the world from subverting the gift. Make us faithful and true. And in this I join with so many other Christian artists to make Flannery O’Connor’s prayer my own.
I imagine that I might be sitting on the porch on a summer morning in Milledgeville, Georgia and talking about the Lord Jesus with her. The Central Georgia sun shines on the white, clapboard farm-house, butter-cream yellow, bright and warm, already, as we pause to pray: she in her devout Catholic way and I in my self-consciously Presbyterian way, equally aware that we are not what we should be or will be.
O’Connor, Flannery, and William A. Sessions. A Prayer Journal. New York City: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.