A Prayer Journal
BayouPages: A Prayer Journal
by Flannery O’Connor | Review by Casey Matthews
Flannery O’Connor is one of the greatest writers the South ever produced. O’Connor wrote two novels and a myriad of book reviews and commentaries; however, she is best known for her short stories. Recently, O’Connor’s prayer journal was found among a collection of her papers. Her friend, W.A. Sessions, has edited this journal and published it to give us yet another glimpse in this amazing author’s life.
O’Connor was a devout Catholic, and her belief in God and God’s grace is present in her stories. In every story, she creates deeply flawed characters who readily see the faults of others, but who can rarely turn a discerning eye upon themselves. O’Connor allows her characters to wrap themselves in their smugness and self-vindication, and just as the reader is ready to enter the book and throttle these characters, O’Connor gives them a moment of grace. She gives them the opportunity for self-reflection and repentance. Some characters recognize their sins; others do not. Regardless, O’Connor’s deep belief in God’s grace and forgiveness is reflected in the characters’ potential redemption. Everyone, good or evil, has the same access to the same God.
O’Connor attended the University of Iowa from 1945-1947. She was away from home trying to figure out if it was God’s plan for her to be a writer. She desperately wanted to be a good writer, but she also wanted God to work through her, and she decided that reciting prayers was not fulfilling enough. She writes:
I do not mean to deny the traditional prayers I have said all my life; but I have been saying them and not feeling them…I can feel a warmth of love heating me when I think & write this to You…Let me henceforth ask you with resignation – that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind – realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust.
– A Prayer Journal
As a rule, journals are deeply personal, and no one writes a journal with the knowledge or belief that it will be published one day. But O’Connor’s struggles of faith and existence are universal; as you read over her words, you will have a deep understanding of her fears and contrition because you have felt them as well. O’Connor’s own humility reminds us that perhaps we could (and should) do with more humility in our own lives. A Prayer Journal is a simple, yet beautiful read. Reading O’Connor’s thoughts reminds us that we, like her characters in her stories, have the opportunity to have God’s grace; we just have to acknowledge and accept it.
The intellectual & artistic delights God gives us are visions & like visions we pay for them; & the thirst for the vision doesn’t necessarily carry with it a thirst for the attendant suffering. Looking back I have suffered, not my share, but enough to call it that but there’s a terrific balance due. Dear God please send me Your Grace.
– A Prayer Journal
Casey Posey Matthews graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education from University of Louisiana in Monroe and her Master’s of Arts degree in English from University of New Orleans and is now an English teacher at Beachwood High School in Cleveland, OH.