PRAYER: Prayers, by Mary Gordon

From The Paris Review

For Liars
For makers of elaborated worlds, adorned and peopled by the creatures and the furniture of their inventions.  For those who live as if the way things are were not enough and mean, by their words, to do something about it.  For those who would protect the first beloved from the fresh reality of the second.  For fabricators of plausible excuses that will save the fragile hostess’s amour-propre.  For ornamenters who cannot endure a history without clear heroes and sharp villains.  For speakers of the phrases “it’s a fabulous haircut” or “of course you aren’t gaining weight.”  For forgers of Old Masters and fakers of petites morts.  For advertisers presenting a Paradise that can be bought or cures passed quick, over the counter, sellers of temporary, unlikely, but not impossible hopes: the Brooklyn Bridge, the golf course in the swamp.  Keep them from the terror of the hunted, the ring of hounds barking in the freezing air, “the truth, the truth, why can’t you tell the truth for once?”  Shelter them in their dream of an earth more various than our own.  Preserve them from diseases of the tongue, the mouth, the lips.  For Your sake, who have thought of universes not yet made, which rest, like lies, in the Mind of Your Infinite Love.

For Those Who Have Given Up Everything for Sexual Love
O Lord, fount of Desire and its source, have mercy on these Thy servants who have followed the words of their flesh in the innocence of its singleness.  Who have acted in accordance with it urging, and obeyed it in humility, bowing the knee before its strength, knowing it greater than their own.  Who have, in unity with its precepts (believing they were spoken in Your voice), turned their backs on the sweetness of habit, lost the regard of their fellows, endured the world’s shame, suffered remorse, the abandonment of those by whom they knew and named and recognized themselves.  Who have refused the blandishments of prosperity, the comforts of home, the pride of faithfulness, the honor of the law.

Protect the reckless, for they gave everything in Your name, their losses have been great.

Keep them from the plagues that they could understand as punishment.

Vouchsafe that in the light proceeding from Your light, they may reap the rewards of their sacrifice and be repaid a hundred-fold.

Grant that we who  have lacked their courage may be strengthened by their example to pursue our partial loves with gladness and fullness of heart.

For Those Whose Work is Invisible
For those who paint the undersides of boats, makers of ornamental drains on roofs too high to be seen; for cobblers who labor over inner soles; for seamstresses who stitch the wrong sides of linings; for scholars whose research leads to no obvious discovery; for dentists who polish each gold surface of the fillings of upper molars; for sewer engineers and those who repair water mains; for electricians; for artists who suppress what does injustice to their visions; for surgeons whose sutures are things of beauty.  For all those whose work is for Your eye only, who labor for Your entertainment or their own, who sleep in peace or do not sleep in peace, knowing that their effects are unknown.

Protect them from downheartedness and from diseases of the eye.

Grant them perseverance, for the sake of Your love which is humble, invisible and heedless of reward.

For Those Who Devote Themselves to Personal Adornment
For office workers who have fallen into debt because they spend their salaries on dresses, for women who require regular appointments with podiatrists to compensate for the ravages of years on high heels, for the victims of disastrous plastic surgery, for those who deprive themselves of sugar, for invalids who rise from bed only to dress and make up and then fall back exhausted, for those who weep in front of mirrors, for those with great legs and bad tempers, for mutton dressed as lamb, for those who sweat and strain their muscles out of fidelity to the illusions of a form.

Spare them diseases of the skin and teeth, for in their sacrifice of time and health and friendship they have given hope to strangers whose hearts have been lifted at the sight of a line that finishes itself finely, of colors undreamed of by nature, of constructions which at once affirm and quite deny the body’s range.

Bless them, because a change of fashion can allow us to believe there could just be, for all of us, a change of heart.

Grant this for the sake of Your love, which has adorned the mountains and created feathers and elaborate tails, O Lord, source of all that exists for delight only, suggestions, in the joy of their variety, of the ecstasy of light which is eternal, changeless and ever-changing.

For the Wasteful
O God, in Your benevolence look with kindness upon those who travel first class in high season, on those who spend whole afternoons in cafés, those who replay songs on jukeboxes, who engage in trivial conversations, who memorize jokes and card tricks, those who tear open their gifts and will not save the wrapping, who hate leftovers and love room service, who do not wait for sales.  For all foolish virgins, for those who knowingly give their hearts to worthless charmers, for collectors of snowman paperweights, memorial cups and souvenir pens.  For those who take the long way home.

We pray to You, whose love is prodigal, who multiplied the loaves and fishes so that there were baskets upon baskets left, who turned plain water into wine of a quality no one required, who gave your life when You need only have lifted a finger, protect these, Your servants, from afflictions of the hand, cover their foolish bets and greet them with that mercy whose greatness is unearnable by calculation or by thrift.

For Those Who Misuse or Do Not Use or Cannot Use Their Gifts
For conservatory-trained composers of incidental music, for beauties run to fat, for the patrons of charlatans, for athletes who watch television, for poets who write commercials, for mathematicians turned card-sharks, for Legal Aid lawyers turned corporate counsel, for actors who are waiters, for wives who do not wish to stay at home, for cat-lovers afraid of mess, for paramours who fear transmittable diseases, for those who no longer go to auditions, for blacksmiths and letterpress printers.

Lord who created manna in the desert and who caused to flow the living springs, who made disciples of fishermen and tax collectors, and a king of a shepherd boy, grant these Thy servants the gift of new enthusiasms, protect them from diseases of the spine, so that they may turn and bend to glimpse Your Hand at the fork of roads not taken, at the tunnel’s end.

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