I used to be good at prayer. Back in those rose-tainted days that probably never existed. But these days prayer is hard and can feel like a kind of fraud. Like I'm pretending to be spiritual. Someone has said 'Why is it that when I talk to God they call it praying, but when God talks to me they call it paranoid schizophrenia?' Well, frankly, I find even the former can feel schizophrenic (and the latter impossible).
I managed, however, to order my thoughts and present them to Christ, whom I trust was listening - realising at the some time (as often happens) that my concerns are slight indeed compared to Syrian refugees, the Ebola victims or myriad other real sufferers.
Petition mixed with penitence; my usual spiritual procedure.
It wasn't life-changing. Yet I arrived home with an approximate peace.
Then, after dinner, I read a poem by DH Lawrence (I like his poems better than his prose, partly because Last Lesson in the Afternoon is such a brilliant depiction of an experience all teachers will recognise!) as part of my poem-a-day Lenten discipline:
All that matters is to be at one with the living God
To be a creature in the house of the God of Life.
Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.
Sleeping on the hearth of the living world,
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
as of a master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.
I like this 'hymn to contented creatureliness', as Janet Morley calls it, combining something very down-to-earth - a snoozing cat - with mystical ecstasy. It reminded me that prayer - in fact, life itself - is not a call to resigned drudgery, but to contentment with the peace of present and full enjoyment of the wildfire that is life: 'yawning at home before the fire of life'.
There's plenty to worry about. Always. But permit me to stretch out like a cat full-length, long-bellied, exposed and ecstatic and hope for a better day - because I'm at one with the master of the house and I can still feel his fire.