Day 1 – A prayer before writing …

10th May 2021

Day 1 here was spent getting to know a diverse group of students with a wide range of research topics. We drank a LOT of coffee together. We also had time alone to settle in and write for hours and hours this afternoon. Vaughn Park has acres of ground that I took some time to walk around during my breaks.

Bottomly and I have a room that is reminiscent of a monk’s cell. I even found dried candle wax on the table top: perhaps a remnant of the last occupant?

Writing a thesis, an academic journal, or a conference paper is often a long, stressful experience for some of us. Publications are something we strive for because it is a core part of what we do; we can’t ignore or avoid it.

Yet if you have a faith, then you quickly realise that your writing cannot be separated from your prayer life. Good writing for a Christian ought to be the result of time spent soaking our thinking in prayer, drawing inspiration from what our Father offers us. We wrestle with feelings of inadequacy by facing them head on, but not alone; we need to invite our Father into the fray because He wants to be a part of it. McKinna Daugherty wrote this in 2013:

A Prayer Before Writing for Academia

God Above All Things,

 In these moments while the document loads and my fingers rest on the keyboard grant me first an emptiness.
Remove the to-do list that waits impatiently in the corner of my mind.

Quiet the voice saying, “You’re not ready, you’re not good enough, you don’t have anything to say.”

Shield me from the imagined judgmental gaze of my advisor.
Grant me first an emptiness, an openness, a mind unchained by anxiety.

Grant me then a fullness. Where insecurity lurks, pour out confidence and curiosity.
Where there is fatigue, fill me with generosity and energy. Where there is fear, fill me with courage.

 Shelter me in your strength and quiet the world around me.
For these few hours grant me peace and solitude in my thoughts.

 Bless this mind you’ve given and help me use it fully. Help me seek and push the limits of my abilities.
Remind me that I have read enough, I have enough, I am enough, You are enough.
and with time this paper will come to a place where it, too, is enough (at least for now).

 In Your name I pray,

That line “Shield me from the imagined judgement...” struck me the first day I read it. It was at a time when I had to submit a draft to my supervisor that I was not happy with. My mind conjured-up all sorts of criticism that I imagined he would say to me; I felt so inadequate. Instead, I took a deep breath and read that section of McKinna’s prayer over and over out loud until I began to accept it.

My supervisor is tough, firm, but he is not cruel. He gave me highly-constructive feedback when we reviewed it together later that day. However, I came away a little ashamed that I had allowed my imagination and fear to rob me of the joy of writing during that dark patch.

So now to sleep, maybe to wake-up early to walk and then write again. I love this stuff…

the next day: Visions and perishing

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