This prayer is a quiet and quick murmur of desperation upon learning of the start of war, uttered by the protagonist Francie Nolan in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:
“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry . . . have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere–be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”
It’s a prayer for attentiveness, for awareness, for full embodiment. An honest prayer to be fully alive.
We Christians talk about the two natures of Christ; how Christ was “fully God and fully human” at the same time. And I think we often take the humanity for granted; he had a body, and that was enough to call him human. But I wonder if full humanity is something to attain, like wisdom and mindfulness.
I wonder if part of what Francie is praying for here is to become more fully human by being attentive to every moment of embodied life.
Which is what makes it a Christian prayer. Not because it starts with “Dear God,” (which prayer from any religion would do in translation). It’s a Christian prayer because she prays with a foundation in the belief of the importance of incarnation — the incarnation of her own self. Because God made flesh and named it good, and God chose to take on flesh and be embodied with us.