Praying Poetry

bibleConfession time: I quit studying Christian scripture years ago. It was a mindset I couldn’t identify with – so many war analogies, prayers for enemies to be slaughtered, not to mention the belittling of women and ‘others’ – it just didn’t seem godly.

But in the past year, I’ve returned to the Bible. This time, instead of viewing it as <cue trumpets> ***God’s Word***, I’ve read it as words written by people like me. People who were frustrated and angry at inequity in the world. People who’d been deeply wounded. People who were searching for the divine, not on a mountain top, but in the midst of the mire.

These days, I usually read the words aloud, because that’s how they would have been originally presented. I read the angry passages angrily, and I must admit, it feels pretty good to let my frustration out via the words of a kindred soul. I read the loving passages and feel my heart soar to the figurative heavens on the wings of those words. When I let them be people’s words, addressed to the Unknown they – we – so desperately want to know, I am moved.

I’ve started writing poetry in response to some of the passages. I’m surprised at what arises when I spend time wrestling with these ancient thoughts. Here’s a sample:

Ephesians 6:13 – 17

I have SO MUCH pushback against warlike analogies, and the Bible is rife with them. Here were my thoughts when reading about the ‘breastplate of righteousness’, etc.

I want no armor
give me permeability
spaces so large that arrows fly through
no place to land
not empty spaces
but Spirit-filled
so stinging arrows are transformed
into words, actions & objects
of Love.

I don’t want to be impervious
but porous
allowing all to flow through
so neither pain nor praise
finds a landing place
just movement
vessel ever-emptying
and ever filled.

Isaiah 40

Sneaking in a little Celtic ecology – the oneness of all creation. 🙂

Penance is done
when I slip my hand
into the hand
of the One,
grin into that grinning face
feel the shock of Spirit move up my arm
from our clasped hands
my other hand against a tree
feel the same Spirit
circuit complete
I am alive.

Habakkuk 2:1-3

I thought about the people of Syria – my people – as I wrote this.

This time
my prayer is not
‘help them’
‘help me’
Help me now to
reach out
grab their hands
pull them to safety
I don’t need
to pray
to think
to ponder.
I need to act.
help me to act.

The next two poems are examples of how differently a passage can strike me. The poems were written a month apart, after separate readings of the same verses.

James 5:7 – 11

is the wrong word.
It’s not strength.
I am not
I am stubborn,
willfully standing
upon scorched earth
muscles clenched
against the impulse
to flee.


James 5:7 – 11

Grey dove
sits on her nest
sits uncomfortably perched
atop her eggs
which could be stones
for all she knows.
I doubt her tiny brain
comprehends the life
growing beneath her.
Why does she stay?
Instinct holds her
as she waits
she waits
for an unknown miracle
she waits.

I wait, too.
I wait though my tiny brain
cannot comprehend the miracle
of a Divine return.
I don’t believe.
Why do I stay?
It must be instinct
as I wait
I wait
for something unknown
I wait.

I think the last poem is the truth for many of us. We don’t get it. We aren’t sure if there is an ‘it’. Yet something compells us to search, to wait, to reach out. Or perhaps to write poetry.

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