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S. Omar Barker's "A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer"

While cowboy poetry is a genuinely American genre, cowboys worldwide share the same traditions & values of living close to nature & to God.

S. Omar Barker

S. Omar Barker

Introduction and Text of "A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer"

This Christmas prayer/poem composed by cowboy poet, S. Omar Barker, allows a humble rider-of-the-range to express his deeply held wishes as he offers a supplication to the Lord for the good of all mankind. The cowboy prayer is framed as a ballad-style narration emphasizing the simple, humble nature of the cowpoke.

The ballad-influenced piece plays out in cowboy dialect and in riming couplets. Its stanza breaks are uneven with two single-line bridges that dissect the drama at important points to emphasize the shift in theme and tone.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer

I ain’t much good at prayin’, and You may not know me, Lord —
For I ain’t much seen in churches, where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin’ after cattle, feelin’ thankful when it rains.

Admirin’ Thy great handiwork.

The miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit, in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night, and know we’ve got a Friend.

So here’s ol’ Christmas comin’ on, remindin’ us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain’t a preacher, Lord, but if You’ll hear my prayer,
I’ll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere . . .

To read the entire poem, please visit "A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer" at The Cowboy Accountant.

Reading of "A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer"

Commentary

S. Omar Barker's "A Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer" dramatizes the prayer offered by a humble cowboy who is unaccustomed to praying and unacquainted with church services but who holds the blessings from the Creator very dear to his heart. He expresses his gratitude for the simple life he lives and asks his Creator to bless others with kindness and prosperity.

First Movement: A Humble Prayer

I ain’t much good at prayin’, and You may not know me, Lord —
For I ain’t much seen in churches, where they preach Thy Holy Word.
But you may have observed me out here on the lonely plains,
A-lookin’ after cattle, feelin’ thankful when it rains.

In the first quatrain, the supplicating cowboy begins by addressing the Lord, suggesting that the Lord may not even be acquainted with the cowboy; he then gives the reasons that he feels the Lord may not know him. He has not attended church very often, and he knows that’s where they preach His "Holy Word."

However, the cowboy then suggests that perhaps the Creator has seen him out on the plains doing his work of watching "after cattle." The cowboy adds what he likely feels may be a useful introduction to the Lord Creator: he has felt thankful for the rain that keeps life supported.

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Second Movement: A Single-Line Bridge

Admirin’ Thy great handiwork.

The cowboy adds another positive feature in his heretofore somewhat tentative relationship with the Almighty: he has always admired the "great handiwork" that he often observes as he rides the range in the great outdoors.

This line appears alone and emphasizes the important idea that the cowboy has always kept the Creator near to his heart by feeling enthralled by all of what He has created. The cowboy is likely remembering the wide-open plains, the mountains, the trees, vegetation of the prairie, the night sky full of stars, and the cattle that he himself drives and protects.

This single line offers a useful bridge between the moments of prayer that supplicates, as it brings the Divine back into the cowboy’s consciousness.

Third Movement: Miracles in Creation

The miracle of the grass,
Aware of Thy kind Spirit, in the way it comes to pass
That hired men on horseback and the livestock that we tend
Can look up at the stars at night, and know we’ve got a Friend.

The next quatrain offers a few specific examples of the great Lord’s "handiwork." The cowboy first mentions the grass, which he describes as a "miracle." He then avers that even as a simply cowpoke he feels the nature of the Lord is kindness.

And through that "kind Spirit," he reports that somehow the graceful occasion exists that those hired hands who work riding horseback and tending livestock are able to observe the sky full of "stars at night."

The cowboy makes it clear that such a sight fills his heart with gratitude that he and his fellow workers "got a Friend." His relationship with the Lord has blossomed even as he admits his tentative relationship with church and prayer.

Fourth Movement: Good Will

So here’s ol’ Christmas comin’ on, remindin’ us again
Of Him whose coming brought good will into the hearts of men.
A cowboy ain’t a preacher, Lord, but if You’ll hear my prayer,
I’ll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere.

Likely the coming of the season of Christmas has been the impetus for the cowboy to be offering this halting prayer. So he now tells the Lord that the coming of Christmas has reminded him of Jesus the Christ, Who "brought good will" into men’s hearts.

Even though he "ain’t a preacher," the cowboy expresses the hope that the Lord will still hear his prayer. He promises to supplicate for the "good" of everyone everywhere. He wishes that all men may be as blessed as he his. His gratitude keeps his own heart open to the Lord’s grace.

Fifth Movement: Prayer of a Simple Soul

In the next cinquain, the speaker offers a catalogue of blessings that he wishes to ask of the Lord. He asks that no bitterness reside in the hearts of men, as he asks that "no child be cold."

He asks the Lord comfort those who are ill and make their convalescence go smoothly. He also wish ease and comfort for those who are old and weak. He asks kind-heartedness remain a feature of the "trail we ride."

He then asks the Creator to keep humanity on His side throughout good times as well as bad times.

Sixth Movement: Praying for Others’ Welfare

Returning to the quatrain-form for the sixth movement, the speaker focuses on hunger; he has observed cows that are starving to death, and that sight weighs heavily on his heart and mind; thus, he begs the Lord to "leave no one hungry."

This deprivation is so important to him that he asks that "no man, no child, no woman" be allowed to go hungry. But he also wants the Lord to protect all animals from the fate of hunger. He then promises to help the Lord in finding food for all who are hungry.

Seventh Movement: Self-Deprecation

In the next tercet, the cowboy again engages in self-deprecation, saying he is "just a sinful cowpoke" and he does not deserve to be "prayin’." Still, he expresses the hope that the Creator will hear at least "a word or two" of his prayer.

The cowboy/speaker then begins a thought which is so important that he offers merely the opening of it, allowing its conclusion to spread over another bridge and into the final tercet. He begins by reporting that "[w]e speak of Merry Christmas, Lord—."

Eighth Movement: Agreement with His Lord

The speaker then creates a second bridge between thoughts. This time he inserts the important notion he thinks the Lord will agree with what he is about to propose.

By beginning the thought in the conclusion of the seventh movement, allowing it to marinate through the eighth bridge movement, he has created a small mystery that emphasizes the utterly vital importance of his final thought.

Ninth Movement: Freedom Is Vital

Finally, the cowboy issues his important claim before God and world that the most important possession that mankind must retain is "freedom." There can be no "Merry Christmas" unless humanity is free to enjoy it; no happiness can exists for any individual "that ain’t free!"

Thus, the cowboy’s final supplication is that the Lord "save some seeds of freedom for the future Sons of Man!" He asks his Creator to allow the love and hope of freedom to grow with mankind in all lands for all time.

© 2021 Linda Sue Grimes

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