For many of us, prayer was something we turned to when all else was failing, nothing was going right and the world was crashing in around us: ‘fox-hole’ prayers. Soldiers under fire, huddled in their dug out trenches asking to get out alive. ‘God, get me out of this and I’ll never drink again,’ or ‘I’ll go to church every Sunday,’ or some bargaining chip that is supposed to entice God to help me in this situation. As if God can be bought off. Once out of the mess, we rationalize that it would have turned out this way regardless of the prayer bargains and continue on our merry way in life as though nothing happened.
A mentor of mine talks about being jobless, penniless and living in the spare room of a friends apartment for over a year. Over a thousand resumes with custom cover letters had been mailed out and not a single interview. He was depressed, feeling failure and abandoned. He relates, “I remember that one night when I prayed I said, ‘God, give me something useful to do.’ I didn’t put conditions on it, no time limits, nothing. Within two weeks I had three job offers and I ended up accepting two of them in fields that I never knew I even wanted to work in and which turned out to be very rewarding.”
Some will rationalize that it would have turned out this way regardless of his prayer. It’s a matter of perspective. What it says to me and the way he interprets this is that he was in complete acceptance and open to whatever his Higher Power would send his way: no conditions, no bargains, no pleas; no restrictions on the outcome. It was a simple prayer, “Give me something useful to do.”
In the eleventh step it is suggested that we pray for two things: “…knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.” It’s pretty simple, but it takes a long time to really ‘get’ it. I don’t have to pray to my higher power for world peace, or to save that baby or to find a job. I pray to know what the next right step is for me and for the strength to take that step. I’m learning to pray without conditions, without terms. I don’t need grandiose terminology or holy words. I need openness and humility. I need willingness to face whatever is before me. I need to show up.
In the Old Testament, I think it’s one of the psalms, the writer says, “Here I am oh Lord. I come to do your will.” Its a simple prayer and pretty close to the one my friend Bob stumbled onto. “Give me something useful to do.” It follows the eleventh step of seeking and carrying out our Higher Power’s will for us. Showing up really is half the battle. It’s letting go of preconceived results and trying to control the people, places and things around me. It’s being open to whatever happens. It’s allowing the current of the river to take me.
For me, it’s a whole lot easier way to pray and to live. It really is turning my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power, knowing in my essence that this Power has always been there for me in the past, is there now and so, I know that it will always be there for me. Am I there yet? Hell no, but I am on my raft on the river, doing my best to enjoy the ride. And that, I believe, is the whole point of this life.