IS PRAYER STILL A THING?

Someone asked me a while back if I still pray since I don’t believe in God. One would think that I don’t pray. After all, it’s a religious thing isn’t it? But the fact is, that I do pray. I still pray a lot. It’s just that my notion of what God is has changed so much since my youth, that I don’t want to equate it with the God of the Bible or of the Roman Catholic Church in which I was raised.

I don’t see God is a magician who makes things appear and disappear. I don’t treat him as my last hope, turning to prayer when it seems that there’s no way out of an impossible situation. Nor do I see God as some sort of a Santa Claus who has lists upon lists of who is naughty and nice. God doesn’t measure my ‘faith’, nor are my petitions granted only if I attain a certain level of devotion. God is not Facebook and doesn’t respond to the number of likes he gets.

My understanding of a “Higher Power” has changed over the years and I believe that trying to define God, puts limits on whatever “It” happens to be. Sufficient to say that as long as my “God” doesn’t stare back at me when I look in the mirror each morning, I’m good. So if I don’t pray to God, then why would I pray?

The function of Prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Søren Kierkegaard.

Recovery literature says that if you have anger toward someone, to pray for them every night for two weeks. This same literature says that whenever we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, we need to look at ourselves for the cause of our disturbance. Finally it says that we cannot control people, places or things; our response to something is the only thing that we can control. In a nut shell: I am the one who needs to change and I pray in order to make that change. When I take the focus off of the other person, the offense or a need, I open myself up to change. I would have a small god indeed if he needed my help to influence his actions.

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

I pray because prayer changes me. Whether it’s rote prayer, meditation, or contemplation, when I pray I move away from my Ego-centrism. Slowly I begin to focus, even just for a second, on the present moment and my connection to something other than myself. It doesn’t matter if I call it my spiritual nature, or my connection with others; prayer takes me away from, well, me. When I do that, when I step away from myself I start to see things for another perspective and that opens me up, little by little, to make a change, a change in me. So, yes, I do pray. I pray for understanding and I pray to accept things as they are.

Prayer allows me to step away from the world around me and quiet my mind for a moment from the challenges I face each day. In these moments I can unite my mind and my heart in a moment of peace. I can do this at a church or temple, by a stream or ocean, in a chair or on a cushion. The how is not important. Being present in the moment and being one with one’s self is prayer however you do it.

I don’t need a Biblical God in order to accomplish this. I only need to acknowledge that I am not the “be all and end all of everything.” In prayer, I connect to the “Spirit of the Universe” or “Higher Power” which more closely aligns with my current understanding of God. This also connects me and keeps me conscious of other people as well. And that, for me, is prayer.

A Forever Change

I receive daily emails from several sources that focus on self development, further education and spiritual growth. Some I read religiously. Others I only check out if the excerpt sounds interesting. Many titles begin with promises of renewal and change. Others list a certain number of steps or items for success in whatever they are promising, should you follow them. I know that there are many ways of changing one’s self to achieve greater success and achievement in as many aspects of our lives. But I feel that many of these articles fail in mentioning one important point: in order to take on a “better version of yourself”, you must also be willing to let go of the old version.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Most of us lead very busy and full lives. We’re working, looking after our children and families, doing household chores, all of which keep us alive, though not always living a life we would like to live. It’s easy to fall under the spell of ‘Three Ways to Simplify Your Day’, or ‘Finding Peace and Contentment in the Fury’. We pick and choose what is offered and try some of these suggestions in our lives. However, a month or so later we’re back doing things the old way because these suggestions just wouldn’t work in our lives. Or so we think.

I have learned over the past years that if I wish to move forward in my life, I have to let go of the old: there just isn’t room for the newer version of ‘Tim’ if the old one is still around. It’s easy to say but not easy to do. You see, I kind of like the old version. I am used to it. I know how I react to things. I know that it takes time to get used to new stuff but I am too entrenched in the old self to really give the 2.0 version of me a chance. As a result I tell myself that this ‘didn’t work’, or it’s ‘not for me.’ But that’s not really true. It like I am trying to implement a new operation system in my computer while still running the old software: it won’t work.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

What does work for me is letting go of the old, trusting in the process of change. I stop trying to put great expectations on the results and just enjoy the journey. When I first got into recovery everything was new, enticing and also overwhelming. I learned that I had to look at myself differently, as a person in recovery. I had to let go of my former version for the newer one in, get used to it, live with it and get comfortable with it. Hanging around in a bar with my old drinking buddies would not have kept me on the straight and narrow. I had to let go of the me I knew to make room for a new me that was emerging. Putting your dirty clothes back on after taking a shower, you’re still going to smell. Recovery wouldn’t work if I was holding onto my old self while trying get comfortable in my new skin. And I had to trust that the process I was going through would work for me as it had for literally millions of other folks, but only if I gave it an honest chance. And to do that, I had to say good-bye to the ‘me’ I was, and welcome the new whoever that might be.

Change is only possible when we make room for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small thing such as changing your bedtime, or a life shifting change in profession. We have to let go. We must let go. Otherwise we are bound to fail. Ensure a successful transition to the newest version of ‘You’! Move forward and leave the old behind. Say good-bye to who you were to make a ‘forever’ change.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Starting With Me

I was told from a young age that having both Irish and Dutch roots, I would be doubly stubborn. I’ll let those around me decide if that is true or not. For my part, I do know that I haven’t always agreed with the status quo and have tried things just a bit differently. I wasn’t a trail blazer, but did things my own quiet way and I lived a lifestyle that differed greatly from my family’s. I was different not just to be different because the pressure to conform was great. However, I knew that I wouldn’t be happy living the way that was ‘expected’ of me.

Photo by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels.com

In both career and lifestyle I chose my own path. It wasn’t without it’s challenges and I am sure that part of the pressure that I felt led me down a dark road that, fortunately also led to the doors of a recovery program a little over ten years ago. And also fortunately, I was not told how be or act, but was given suggestions that I was free to follow in order to begin living life on a more balance keel. These ‘suggestions’, the twelve steps of recovery, were up to me to follow and implement in my life at my own pace. I was still quite stubborn and this way of applying the program suited me well. And while I am hardly the poster boy for recovery, I have learned to live life on life terms, one day at a time.

I think that recovery has worked for me because it isn’t forced: nothing used to arouse me more than telling me what I ‘had’ to do. This is the philosophy of ‘attraction, rather than promotion’. I was given suggestions, the members shared their own experience, strength and hope, and I could take it or leave it. There is a lot of wisdom in this philosophy, with a far greater reach just that of sobriety.

Gandhi told us: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You can’t force people to change, but you can give them the option of living life another way. Telling people what to do rarely works. Showing them how to do something has a much better chance at success. Letting others see what you are doing and how you are living allows them to make a choice. If, indeed, the changes that one makes in their life are attractive, others will follow suit and make similar changes in their own lives.

Photo by Lara Jameson on Pexels.com

I know there are a lot of problems facing the world: economics, climate change, and health challenges have such far reaching effects that as a rather stubborn individual, I have little chance of making any impact upon. In truth, few people ever do. However, I can live the changes I would like to see in the world. I can put out my recycling. I can live a healthier lifestyle. I can respond with kindness and compassion to situations. I can share. It may not seem like much to pick up one bottle off the street when there’s litter everywhere, but I am living my beliefs. And I am making my little part of the world just slightly better. Perhaps your neighbour will see what you have done and decide to help. Even if that neighbour doesn’t change, I have still made my world, and therefore, the world a whole, just an iota better than is was yesterday.

I can’t control what others do. I have learned that my circle of control has a radius that only stretches a few centimeters beyond the tip of my nose. I can’t tell people what to do or how to do it: many are just a stubborn as I am and just as intransigent to change. But they may be attracted to make a change when they see positive results in others. Demonstrating changes and offering suggestions won’t instantly move the world but it does make a small difference. And if the only difference is a little less stubbornness and a bit more peace of mind, then that’s fine with me.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com