by Madeline L’Engle, first published in Lines Scribbled on an Envelope.
There is too much pain
I cannot understand
I cannot pray
I cannot pray for all the little ones with bellies bloated by starvation in India;
for all the angry Africans striving to be separate in a world struggling for wholeness;
for all the young Chinese men and women taught that hatred and killing are good and compassion evil;
or even all the frightened people in my own city looking for truth in pot or acid.
Here I am
and the ugly man with beery breath beside me reminds me that it is not my prayers that waken your concern, my Lord;
my prayers, my intercessions are not to ask for your love
for all your lost and lonely souls,
but mine, my love, my acceptance of your love.
Your love for the woman sticking her umbrella and her expensive parcels into my ribs and snarling, “Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”
Your love for the long-haired, gum-chewing boy who shoves the old lady aside to grab a seat,
Your love for me, too, too tired to look with love,
too tired to look at Love, at you, in every person on the bus.
Expand my love, Lord, so I can help to bear the pain,
help your love move my love into the tired prostitute with false eyelashes and bunioned feet,
the corrupt policeman with his hand open for graft,
the addict, the derelict, the woman in the mink coat and discontented mouth,
the high school girl with heavy books and frightened eyes.
Help me through these scandalous particulars
Help me to pray.