There’s a quote from Flannery O’Connor that resonates with me as a writer: “I write to discover what I know.” Within the act of writing out my thoughts on a matter, there is often a sorting-out that occurs. Clarity arises. In writing a fiction story as well, certain ideas give me pause, making me question where the words came from within me. Writing teaches me a lot about myself.
This morning, that quote came to mind after I spent a bit of time in prayer. I thought how appropriate it’d be to say instead, “I pray to discover what I know.” Because sometimes – not all the time, but sometimes – at the close of your prayer, you are left with nothing more than what you know, and that is enough.
I had dropped the kids off at the sitter a few minutes ahead of schedule and was on my way to my office. I’d only driven a quarter mile though before I pulled over. I stepped out of my car, sat down on a curbside bench on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan, and stared at this:
I stared at the sunbeams. I stared at the clouds. I stared at the barely-there waves lapping the beach. Then, I prayed.
My family was exchanging text messages for the past hour or more as my oldest sister Cheryl prepared for her latest doctor appointment in Milwaukee. Today she’ll have a biopsy of one of the growths they’ve found, then she’ll wait approximately a week while it is analyzed to determine the exact type and stage of the cancer that has spread throughout her body.
Sitting on that bench, I thought of the specific things for which Cheryl had requested we pray. Then my mind went blank, wiped by the emotions that cluster into my throat and chest each time I pray for my sister. My own words disappeared and I resorted to what I know:
“Our Father, who art in Heaven…”
“Hail Mary, full of grace…”
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…”
I whispered the words, as secure and comforting as home, and I discovered what I know:
I know that God is our father. Our perfect father who has us in his care at all times even as he allows our free will and the natural world to run their course.
I know that God provides our daily bread. He places in our path the people and resources and situations to meet our souls’ and bodies’ needs.
I know that Jesus listens to the prayers of his family, and that like any Queen Mother who has the ear of her son, the King, we have Mary praying for us at Jesus’ side.
I know that God – the Holy Trinity – is worthy of all glory and praise. I know that he is unchanging, all-powerful, infinitely wise, and good without exception.
I don’t know what answer God will give to our family’s prayers, but I do know He’ll answer. Sometimes it only takes three minutes of prayer time and some stunning sunbeams to help us discover what we know.