Tag Archives: Port William

Wendell Berry and Prayer

I have just finished reading Jayber Crow, a 2000 novel by Wendell Berry. Not being previously familiar with his work, I was pleasantly surprised. Berry was an agrarian writer, whether telling of his mythical community Port William in Kentucky, or writing thought-provoking essays on the destruction of souls triggered by the loss of our connection to the land.

The excerpt below caught really spoke to me, since the “problem of prayer” is one of my ongoing obsessions.

“What answer can human intelligence make to God’s love for the world?  What answer, for that matter, can it make to our own love for the world? If a person loved the world – really loved it and forgave its wrongs and so might have his own wrongs forgiven – what would be next?

“And so how was a human to pray? I didn’t know, and yet I prayed.  I prayed the terrible prayer: “Thy will be done.”  Having so prayed, I prayed for strength.  That seemed reasonable and right enough. As did praying for forgiveness and the grace to forgive.  I prayed unreasonably, foolishly, hopelessly, that everybody in Port William might be blessed and happy – the ones I loved and the ones I did not. I prayed my gratitude.

“The results, perhaps, were no more than expectable.  I found, as I had always found, that I had strength, but never quite as much as I needed – or, anyhow, wanted…  Port William continued to be partly blessed and happy, as before, and partly not…And so perhaps my prayers were partly answered; some perhaps were answered entirely… How would a person know? But why ask?  It was not just a matter of cause and effect. Prayers were not tools or money…I finally knew why Christ’s prayer in the garden could not be granted. He had ben seeded and birthed into human flesh. He was one of us.  Once He had become mortal, He could not become immortal except by dying. That He prayed that prayer at all showed how human He was. That He knew it could not be granted showed His divinity. “

This is from pages 252-3. My time is short today (oh, the busy, busy covid-lockdown-era life of a retiree), so I won’t try to add anything here. (Shortly, off to visit family before the coming snowstorm.) Maybe next week.