It’s okay to admit it – sometimes we get stuck in prayer. Sometimes, even if we want to pour ourselves out to God, we don’t know how. We’re too excited, or too upset, or just plain overwhelmed – straightforward language just doesn’t hold enough wonder in it to fit what we are feeling.
Let Him Easter In Us
When I get stuck in prayer in this way, that’s when I turn to poetry. Sometimes, I write it. There’s something in the way that the verses move that forces me to really take ownership of my feelings, all the way down to my marrow. That just doesn’t happen when I’m talking in my head, or even out loud. The written word sticks, and I find myself finally admitting how angry or how content I am when I am required to describe my state of mind with precise images. It’s a wondrous release.
However, the writing of the poetry is not even my favorite part. What amazes me about poetry is that it is always a collaborative effort. A good amount of the power of the poem comes from the poet, yes, but it would be meaningless without the eyes and ears of the audience. For example, I was asked to join in on a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting in Highlands Ranch, Colorado this past Christmas season, to share some of my Advent reflections with a group of around thirty high schoolers.
It took me about two minutes to read each poem (and that’s with my slow reading voice), but we ended up going twenty minutes over the allotted time just talking about the way each verse hit each different person. It amazed me to see these kids taking away from the poem things that I didn’t even realize I had put in- which, is for me, the salvific property of poetry. When done right, poetry can give us the images that release us from the traps of everyday language and bring us, face-forward, into the realm of the sacred.
In my opinion, this is why the Bible is written in such poetic language, and even contains whole books dedicated to poetry all its own (the Psalms, the Song of Songs). The language itself allows us to play in a space otherwise barred to us by our natural modes of thought- it shocks us into that place that we needed to be to come unstuck and feel grace again.
April is National Poetry Month, and I would challenge you to make it a special month of devotion. Take the opportunity to make yourself familiar with Christian poets from all kinds of denominations like John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins (my personal favorite), Mark Jarman, Anne Dillard, Luci Shaw, Calvin Miller, Denise Levertov and Geoffrey Hill. Let their reflections seep into your own prayer as would a well-written devotional. Sometimes, the best way that God can speak to us is through one another. If you are stuck with your prayer, or are looking for a good way in which to deepen your understanding of yourself and your relationship with God, why not see what these passionate writers have to say, and teach?
“Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness in us, be a crimson-breasted east.” ~Gerard Manley Hopkins
Amber Koneval is the author of Drunk Dialing the Divine, a poetry collection that takes a journey through personal anger to God’s love. She is currently a twenty-something college student who plans on wasting her whole life devoted to the art of writing. Though she hopes she’ll have something to show for it eventually, she’s happy enough with just the words, God, and her large family.