Tennessee: Be The Answered Prayer

Tenn on the phone
New York to Baton Rouge
November, 1982

I have to call attention to something you have said a number of times, and which I can no longer allow. I do this as a favor to you and as a remedial plea for myself: You have said on more than one occasion that you 'pray' something works out, or that you'll 'pray' that things work out.

Why do you do this?

Prayer, as we have discussed, is an evil construct when it prevents us from doing those things we are morally, humanly called to do. When you wrote to me for advice, did I offer to pray for you? No, I appeared and I spoke. Was anything I said of any use to you? We shall see, but it will do you no good to pray for the answer. The answer is yes or no, and it is time then to discard or use what I have shared, and then get on with your life.

When I have been hungry or scared or broke, I called on my friends--agents of the Lord, you might say--and I received from them food and drink, comfort and kindness, money or a bed to sleep in for a time. I would have discarded--as you should also--anyone who heard a plea from a friend or a fellow human and offered only a prayer. We are, as Martha Graham always stated, the answered prayer. We are here to move the mountains and heal the sick and raise the dead--in spirit, of course.

Stop praying, except to call on your God for the strength and the courage to move forward, to help those who need your help, and to fill the space you're taking up with things of honor and beauty and worth.

We are always capable of doing something to help people, without relying on the spiritual cop-out of a prayer. Talk to someone. Feed someone. Make them laugh. Offer a hand or a shoulder. Pray only when you are exhausted from your efforts and are asking for more strength to keep doing your work.

Do not make prayer an evil thing.

Progress is another myth. Progress is fine, but it is not to be confused with success or worth. I wanted to be a great writer, and I might have made some progress toward my goal, but that is not to say that I became a great writer. We cannot infantilize ourselves any longer. Baby steps are fine for a baby. We are no longer babies. Aim high and fail big, but don't look for the star on your report card or a pat on the back. Instead get back to work and the big goal.

What is progress, anyway? The half of the bottle I didn't drink? The feeling I didn't hurt in my travels today? The responsibility I didn't shirk? 

We can only be rewarded by continuing the work--of being artists and being decent humans. We do not deserve a star or a pat on the back. We have earned our place.

And no one--in the extremity of an event--deserves to be told that you are praying for them, reaching out to the supernal concierge for assistance. What our friends deserve is our presence, our love, our support.

Be the answered prayer.


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