When I was young, praying came easily to me. I simply reached out to God, believing he would answer me.
When I was older, I went through a crisis of faith that separated me from religion and everything I knew about God and prayer. I became an agnostic, a person full of questions with no hope of finding answers.
Now I am in recovery. I am desperate to stay sober, willing to do whatever it takes to change, including believing in a Higher Power and re-learning how to pray.
Prayer is important to me because it is the connection between my physical self and my spirit and between my spirit and my Higher Power. Praying regularly increases my sense of spiritual well being. The more I pray, the closer my connection with my Higher Power.
The problem is I have not been praying. It’s not a habit yet.
In rehab I was overwhelmed by the thought of praying. We talked about it often. We discussed our Higher Powers over cigarettes and coffee. We chatted philosophy on our walks to the center and tried to determine what it meant to be connected to a Higher Power.
I tried to pray while I was in rehab. I tried getting down on my knees by my bed, and I said words I thought I was supposed to say. I confessed my sins and asked for forgiveness. I asked for strength and grace to stay sober.
About a month after leaving rehab I was drinking again. Many binges and white chips and relapses later, I got sober for what I pray will be the last time. But I still struggle with a spiritual connection to my Higher Power. And I am afraid that without that divine connection I will drink again.
Most people I know in AA and other recovery groups call their Higher Power “God.” I do not. For me, that name is full of bitter history, anger, and fear. I cannot seek help from that God.
The God of my understanding – my Higher Power – is a power of love and light. It radiates peace and serenity. It is kindness in the face of fear. It is calm in the midst of anger.
I do not have a name for my Higher Power. And when I pray I do not follow strict rules. I don’t get down on my knees. Sometimes I don’t say any words at all.
I’m reminded of a quote from an old book, a childhood favorite of mine:
Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.
This is the way I pray (when I remember). I take moments out of the day to just sit and
recognize that I am not the greatest power in the universe. That there is a power greater than myself who cares about me.
I say thank you. I ask for help. I pray for others. When I remember to pray, this is what I do:
It’s not impossible to pray in a noisy place. In fact, I’ve prayed many a “Lord, help me,” prayer in the midst of a large crowd or a distressing situation when I felt my anxiety creeping into panic territory.
But when I really want to connect with my Higher Power, I need a quiet place where I can focus on stillness. I meditate for a few moments to bring my awareness into myself and still my racing thoughts. When my mind is clear, I can approach prayer with my whole heart.
There’s no reason to hide anything from my Higher Power. It/They know everything already. If I’m upset or anxious about something, why hold it back? I try to let everything go – all the emotion that I keep hidden from others. I recognize it, name it, hold it up to the light and give it to my Higher Power.
Lord knows I don’t know what to do with it.
When I pray, the first thing I do is thank my Higher Power for my sobriety. Staying grateful is a huge part of my sobriety plan. Praying isn’t just about asking for the things I need or giving my Higher Power the things I can’t handle. It’s about saying “Thank You” for all the good things in my life I enjoy.
Use the God Box
This is a tool my sponsor introduced to me. It’s a decoupaged mason jar that sits on my desk, and it’s nearly full of little notes that I write to my Higher Power. Whenever I find myself worrying about something that I just can’t let go of, I write it down on a slip of paper and put it in the God Box.
The physical act of writing the worry down and putting it away helps me let it go. It helps me give it to my Higher Power and release the anxiety to the universe.
I would not say that Nature is my Higher Power, but I do find a connection with my
Higher Power through nature. The silken touch of the wind, the glimmer of the stars, the quiet rush of flowing water – all remind me of my smallness in the universe. I find it easier to pray when I’m outside.
One important thing I have learned – my Higher Power is not a feeling. Just because I do not feel like I have a connection with the spiritual nature of the universe doesn’t mean my Higher Power does not exist.
My Higher Power is still there, even on the days when I feel disconnected. Even on the days I forget to pray.