by Deena Metzger

Women praying. Let us pause before these words. Women praying.

We pause before these words because for centuries women have been systematically excluded from the priesthood or restricted in their religious lives. As if we don’t know how to pray. As if women don’t understand the sacred.

Women praying. The truth is that women have always been praying. A woman’s life—her body and her soul—is often, more than anything, prayer. Women have known the sacred in everything they do and see and touch.

For all the centuries that women have been denied public prayer and public access to the Divine, they continued to walk the holy ways even when it meant a sometimes secret, clandestine relationship with the sacred. The blessing of prayer is that nothing can stop the silent, unspoken, sacred joy of reaching to the Divine from the heart. Everywhere, freely uttered or cruelly repressed, women are praying and these prayers enhance the world. The great song that sustains the universe may well be that of women in all places singing grief and gratitude and exultation.

This is not so much a book of prayers but a book of women praying. Prayer is, first of all, the fully embodied activity of praise. This book is a document of praise. Prayer is invocation. This book calls Spirit down into the world. Prayer is blessing, a request to the Divine to penetrate the world. Prayer is the gift of beauty to Beauty through which the world recovers its original form, the altar it can become once more. These writings seek the restoration of the sacred universe. Prayer is an offering, an offering of the self to the Divine. These women writers offer themselves: Here we are. Speak through us. Use us. Come through us. Let us serve you.

One does not need religion to know the Divine. Rather often it interferes with the deep knowing of the heart. These writers, these women, see the Divine everywhere. Look at the Earth, they say, She is the Sacred Mother. Their words reveal Her radiance. The sacred tree. The sacred animal. The sacred body. Vision. It has always been this way. Women know the Divine in the world, in family, in their children, in community, in themselves, in the body, in their work. In what they love. In lamentation and grief. In their anguish for the ruin of our world. Among the dead and in their determined hope for the future. The Sacred is in Life and the Mystery is revealed here.

Women have had to carry this knowledge against all odds. And now is the time that it can be spoken. And so we speak it and we sing it. We mourn and we rejoice. Death and Life. Praise.

When you read these texts, you will know they are written with the luminous Holy Letters that the Divine has extended to us over the centuries. You will feel the Letters as they inscribe themselves on your heart and soul. And so you, too, will know the Sacred. It is Here. Among us. Emerging. Now.