On fire and prayer

On the last Monday of October I drive to work in pre-dawn darkness as deep as midnight. Rounding bends on deserted backroads past unlit houses, gaping stubbled fields, hulking shapes of farm equipment, shadowed barns, patches of woods, when off in the distance, through silhouetted tree trunks—fire.

A bonfire. Tall flames, bright orange against the blackness, undulating skyward. Startling. So Halloween-esque. Hauntingly beautiful in its way except….I can’t tell what’s burning. Probably trash. The fire seems large for that, and before sunrise? I am too far away to see anything but the fire itself. I cannot see smoke or smell it. No screaming sirens. No alarms. Only silence, stillness…should I investigate to be sure? The road twists and turns, demanding my attention, and as I reach a tricky intersection where a few sets of headlights from opposite directions approach and pass, I realize: I’ve lost sight of the fire now. I am not sure of its location. Somewhere close by it’s burning, consuming, destroying, I hope nothing precious, nothing of value… and so I cross the intersection, praying it is controlled until extinguished.

On I drive in the darkness, shivering.

I think of anger.


Fire, anger. The contrast of being controlled, purifying, and righteous, or uncontrolled to the point of destroying, intentionally or not, what is precious, valued, and loved. Thinking of that fire throughout the day yesterdaythere were no reports of damagereminded me of a poem I wrote last week:

Why I Pray

In the absence of peace,
I pray.

When my mind cannot fathom
or even form questions,
I pray.

When I am weary
of injustice, of sifting truth and lies,
when my inner well has run dry,
I pray.

I pray for power beyond my own.

To overcome the red-hot dagger of fury,
that I should not wield it,
thereby scarring others
and myself.
To knit words of healing instead,
one by one, 
like snowflakes falling
to form a blanket of blessing,
a holy hush.

Freeing myself by forgiving
as well as others,
feeling the weight drop away.

That quickening sense of awe,
for even if I cannot call
fire from Heaven (thankfully),
I can move mountains of ice
in my own heart.

Because, as long as I live,
I will battle need, loss, and fear, 
trusting that love conquers all
—its beating wings in my heart,
forever my reason 
to pray


with thanks to Andy Schoenborn for the “Embrace your why” prompt and the mentor poem written by a student, shared on Ethical ELA’s Open Write last week.

and to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Writing Challenge, always encouraging “a world of reflective writers”—so needed.

Photo: Burning fire at nightwuestenigel. CC BY 2.0

9 thoughts on “On fire and prayer

  1. The juxtaposition of the “red-hot dagger of fury” and the snowy “blanket of blessing” brought a breath of prayer to me this morning. Fran, you are the master of taking a moment and expanding it, your readers hanging on to your coattails as we fly through your thoughts, seeing what you see. A prayer of gratitude for your writing will be sent from my heart today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with the first two commenters. This post is lovely in its power. Your description of seeing the fire feels like it’s from a book. And your prayer. I love the stanza of knitting words of healing like snowflakes falling creating a blanket of blessing. And moving mountains of ice from your heart, so uplifting and so true. You grace me with your writing, Fran.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely again, my talented friend. However, I don’t think you need the ‘because’ on the last stanza of the poem. Hope you are well. Big hugs, Marilynn ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw a fire—burning leaves—yesterday as we ran our dogs. It both attracted and repelled me. So much in life has that binary effect. You capture the mystery, the allure, and the danger fire—especially those fires whose source we cannot see—w/ haunting prose.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fran, I’ve thought what Margaret said many times! (I will be the first one to order your book when you tell us it’s ready.)

    Your beautiful description of the setting of your drive captures me and makes me right there with you. So lovely, and reading your poem again today was a treat. Today, I’m focusing on these lines:
    “To knit words of healing instead,
    one by one,
    like snowflakes falling
    to form a blanket of blessing,
    a holy hush.”
    So powerful!

    Liked by 1 person

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