"When did you first start praying and how has your prayer life evolved since then?"
I prayed as a child – the “Now I lay me down to sleep” variety of prayer, but what I remember of that time was more superstition than anything resembling conscious contact with a higher power. For the record: I was raised first in the Pentecostal church, then in the Baptist church, but I left organized Christianity at fifteen. I never stopped believing in a higher power. I just couldn’t reconcile the exclusiveness and political nature of organized religion with a god that was supposed to have created us all. I still, however, look to the teachings of Christ as a good guide for living.
Over the years, my prayers ran from the vindictive kind (“God, please strike So&So down because you know I’m a good person, and I wouldn’t ask if he/she weren’t so evil,”) to the selfish kind (“God, please make me beautiful and rich and make all the other kids like me!”) to the bargaining kind (“God, please get me out of this, and I swear, I’ll never do it again.”). With few exceptions, I never experienced the humble and sincere kind, until one night…
I had been exposed to Alcoholics Anonymous several times over the course of my drinking and drugging years, but at the end, I felt I needed a miracle of science, not AA or a HP. It was not until I found myself in a state barren of all hope that I found the dormant seeds planted years before and watered them with prayer.
Miracles happened that night. I was desperate, and a hand reached out to me, through space – cyber space. Another alcoholic, three hundred miles away, was sitting at his keyboard in a chat room having nothing to do with recovery, and he sensed that I needed help. He provided me with a phone number – a hotline number. And I prayed.
I couldn’t tell you the words of that prayer, but I’m sure it went something like this: “God, creator, whomever you are, please don’t let me die here. My family doesn’t deserve this.” That was the beginning of my real prayer life, and it was probably the first unselfish thought I’d had in years. With that unselfish thought/prayer I came to a turning point.
I had trouble with prayer in early recovery. I felt something the night I grabbed onto the hands offered to me, but then came a disconnect that lasted several weeks. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving Day, nearly a month into my newly sober state, that anything further occurred in my prayer life. The topic of that night’s meeting was, as is tradition on Thanksgiving, gratitude. I was in a wheelchair at the time, and one of my fellow rehabites helped me to the podium, parking me in front of it. After a phone call to my family that day and a wonderful dinner with patients and staff, I had finally come to the point of being thankful for my answered prayer. I expressed it there in front of the podium, expressed my joy and gratitude at being alive, thanked whatever higher power was watching over me, and I had, I believe, my first truly spiritual experience. It was as though a bucket of cold water, not harsh but refreshing, had been dumped over me. I cried.
I have explored many avenues of spiritual expression, and these days, I seldom pray in words unless I’m repeating a version of the third or seventh step prayers or an eleventh step conversation that I have with my higher power that goes something like this: “Please help me stay out of your way today.” For the most part, when I’m praying for someone else, I do it in images. I focus on the person, visualize them surrounded by healing light, and I concentrate on sending all the love and compassion I possess into that image.
I don’t think I have any sort of healing powers, but I do sense that prayer isn’t supposed to be a passive activity. I attempt to connect to the spirit of the universe, and to me, that implies a bond, a strengthening and amplification of the spirit energy – if my motives are in the right place, divorced from selfishness, self-pity and fear, among other things. And if this were not so, if we played no part in this process, there would be no need to pray. Our god, whomever we conceive our god to be, would not need us to ask.
Also, my prayer does not occur at any set time during the day. It’s not ritualistic. I typically begin to pray sometime in the morning, and I am almost always in a state of prayer when I fall asleep at night, but it’s not because I’ve designated those times for prayer. Prayer, after awhile, became a natural state. Fearful? Uncertain? Irritated? Concerned? Those are times for me to pray. Grateful? Joyful? Serene? Relaxed? Those are also times for me to pray. And being a scattered, forgetful type, if I were to “save” my prayers for a designated time, I would surely forget some things, so I pray when and where I need to, without stopping to think, “I’m praying now.”
In a nutshell, the way I pray has evolved into a very vibrant, natural and harmonious part of my daily life.
Peace & Love,