My friend looked at all the devotees climbing a mountain on one of our trips to Tibet. They were peaceful, serene, radiant. My friend shook his head in awe. “Their whole life is a prayer,” he said.
Gratitude Focus: We can be grateful that even when we forget to pray, God doesn’t forget us.
Most religions have formal prayers and guidelines for praying. These include confession of wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness, expressing gratitude for help and gifts received, asking for guidance, asking for blessings on people we love or are trying to love, and praise.
Some people like to pray in the shower, others on their knees by their bed. Some like to pray in a group. People may bow their heads, or clasp their hands, or close their eyes. Some even consider thought a form of prayer.
We can talk out loud or silently think a prayer. We can even write letters in a God journal. Some people say long prayers in the morning. Others combine that with short little messages throughout the day to God.
How do you like to pray? What works for you?
Action: Here’s a recovery prayer based on Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“Thank you for keeping me straight yesterday. Please help me stay straight today. For the next twenty-four hours, I pray for knowledge of your will for me only and the power to carry that through. I pray that you might free my thinking of self-will, self-seeking, and wrong motives. I pray that in times of doubt and indecision, you might send your inspiration and guidance. I pray that you might send me the right thought, word, or action, and that you show me what my next step should be.” You can pray for whatever you want, but asking to be shown Gods Will and to be given the power to carry that through is usually a good bet.
“Whenever I talk to God, I feel like I’m pleading and begging,” a woman said to me. “What should I do?”
“If we can’t beg God, who can we beg?” I said. “I’d just keep praying if I were you. “
Inventory Focus: is prayer a regular part of your routine?
Go ahead. Don’t just think about praying. Talk to God.
Prayer: Help me come close enough to you that even a little of you will rub off on me. Teach me the power of prayer.
After I left treatment, praying in the morning became part of my routine. I prayed as though my life depended on it, because it did. I didn’t feel like I had begun my day properly unless I started it with a recovery prayer, asking for God’s help and guidance.
After my son died, I was so angry about his death that I stopped my morning routine. But there came a time when I had to get back to my routine of talking to God. It can be hard to believe that God cares about the details of our lives. It can feel awkward talking to a force we can’t see or hear.
Challenge: For me, the hardest thing about praying is that I drag my heels and balk at the discipline of regular prayer. I need to remind myself that prayer isn’t work, It works.
Gratitude feeds on itself. It breeds acceptance. It turns what we have into enough, and more.
Gratitude Focus: We can keep saying thank you, even when we don’t mean it. Pretty soon we won’t have to fake it anymore. It will become a natural heartfelt act.
Gratitude isn’t denial. We can practice gratitude without denying how we feel. Sometimes we do need to change the circumstances in our lives. But we usually can’t do that until we accept what we have and who we are now.
One challenge about practicing gratitude is that the things we most need to be grateful for are often the things causing us the most misery Practicing gratitude when we most need to do it can feel like the most unnatural act in the world.
Practicing gratitude can be difficult when we’re depressed or going through deep grief. Some things in life are so tragic that we’ll never be grateful that the event occurred.
I’m not grateful for my son’s death. I’d have him back in a heartbeat if I could. But I’m grateful that I had him in my life. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned since he died. And I’m grateful I’m happy again.
Challenge: The hardest thing about practicing gratitude can be surrendering to God and trusting his will.