What is Prayer?

~Mary Oliver~

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.

Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-sleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflower?  The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I listened, my pen in the air.


Why must people kneel down to pray?
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what
I’d do.  I’d go out into a great big field all alone
or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up at
the sky – up – up – up – into that lovely blue sky
that looks like there was no end to its blueness.
And then I’d just feel a prayer.

~L.M. Montgomery  ‘Anne of Green Gables’~

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4 Responses to What is Prayer?

  1. tammy says:

    Looks like a Maxfield Parrish! Loved this one!

  2. tammy says:

    So perfect! What is prayer but walking down a road with the sun hitting your eyeluds a dog by your side and guving thanks fir the beauty surrounding you!! Xxoo

  3. tammy says:


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