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Jerry Earl Johnston: Little prayers of thanks are pleasant treat

Published: Sunday, Dec. 25 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

In his book, "The Gospel Truth," religion columnist Mitch Finley introduces us to a new friend.

Finley quoted a "prayer poem" by the Australian artist and author, Michael Leunig.

It reads, in part:

We give thanks for the mystery of hair.

Too little here, too much there.

Censored and shaved,

controlled and suppressed,

Unwelcome guest

in soups and sandwiches. …

We give thanks for the blessing of hair.

Amen.

After reading that, I was barefoot.

Leunig charmed my socks off.

I immediately went into research mode. I knew nothing about the man, so I Googled him.

It turns out, Michael Leunig is a revolutionary of sorts. His cause is to find a way to work prayers into the grimy and gritty pages of daily newspapers.

In his little collection "A Common Prayer" (Collins Dove Publishers, 1990) Leunig lays out his manifesto.

"I was originally asked to draw a weekly cartoon for the paper," he says. "But … I felt there were already enough jokes and amusements at hand and the boom in humour and satire I found somewhat oppressive."

Instead, he says, he felt "newspapers might carry some small spiritual message of consolation as a tiny reparation for the enormous anxiety and distress I believe they can create."

He decided the "spirit of the times" called for "the cultivation of public prayer."

He fired his first shot.

The little prayers of thanks he produced for the paper quickly won over editors and readers — prayers that express gratitude for birds, tomatoes, darkness, friends, domestic animals, simplicity, peace, handles, changes and — yes — hair.

As I read his prayers, I couldn't help but feel that Leunig fit hand-in-glove with the Deseret News mission statement about "trusted voices" sharing "light and knowledge."

It was gratifying to see other newspaper readers were ready for some earnest religion.

Is the Deseret News ready for a column of public prayer?

I don't know.

I do know, however, the paper printed Leunig's "hair prayer" above.

So you could say Michael Leunig and the Deseret News are already on the same page.

EMAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com

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