People Who Should Read Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal

Flannery-O'Connor_1947The recently published journal of Flannery O’Connor can be found on the shelves of Christian bookstores as well as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Below is a list of seven kinds of people who should add this book, simply titled “Prayer Journal”, to their summer reading lists.

1. People who are fans of Flannery. (That may seem obvious.) But those who have exhausted Flannery’s other works will find that this recently published journal offers a fresh and intimate look at the interior life of the beloved Catholic American author.

“I would like to write a beautiful prayer,” writes Flannery O’Connor, “There is a whole sensible world around me that I should be able to turn to Your praise.”

2. People who have never read Flannery. The new reader will be given a taste of her beautiful prose that may whet their appetite for more of the accomplished author’s works.

“Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see…”

3. People who like funny things. Flannery’s sense of humor is known for being blunt, self-deprecating, and a little dark – and the humor in her prayer journal does not disappoint.

For example, she writes of her frustration with herself for not being grateful enough for what God has given her:

“When I think of all I have to be thankful for I wonder that You don’t just kill me now because You’ve done so much for me already & I haven’t been particularly grateful.”

4. Young people.  Flannery started writing this prayer journal when she was not yet 21 during her time at Iowa University, where she went to study journalism and ended up studying creative writing. Young people will especially be able to relate to Flannery’s stubborn struggles to give to God what he asks of her.

Of her desire to fully give her artistic talents to God she writes, “Help me to feel that I will give up every earthly thing for this.” However, she adds a stipulation: “I do not mean becoming a nun.”

5. People who appreciate works of art with Catholic themes.  Flannery clearly understood the need for her to become a true artist and a master of her craft in order to fully glorify God with her work. She writes that she wants “Christian principles (to) permeate my writing,” adding, “please let there be enough of my writing (published) for Christian principles to permeate.”

However, she realizes that just writing about Christian themes is not enough, she must write excellently:

“I must write down that I am to be an artist. Not in the sense of aesthetic frippery but in the sense of aesthetic craftsmanship…”

6. People who have ever written a prayer journal or anyone who has prayed to God and experienced frustration or scattered attempts at prayer.  Even as an aspiring and already accomplished author, Flannery displays moments of both (frustration and scattered-ness) that anyone who has ever tried to pray to God will appreciate:

“Dear God, I am so discouraged about my work. I have the feeling of discouragement that is. I realize I don’t know what I realize.”

And again: “Can’t anyone teach me how to pray?”

7. People looking for a short but powerful spiritual read. The journal was only kept for a year and written in sporadically, making the book a brief but delightful spiritual read. The text concludes with, “There is nothing more to say of me.” It is then followed with the entire journal in Flannery’s own script, giving the volume a very personalized and intimate feel.

A preview of the journal is available here on Amazon.com.