I’m Not a Christian, But I Prayed Today

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 11/18/14)

I prayed today.

No, I don’t normally pray. Not in a traditional, Christian-type way. I’m not a Christian, and I’ve never spoken to God in a direct way through prayer. Just saying the word “God” has always made me uneasy. I’m not an atheist, however. I am a spiritual person, and I connect to my spirituality through meditation. I feel more comfortable with the word “Universe” to describe the all-powerful, all-knowing presence others might refer to as “God”. “Universe” works for me, because my beliefs tend to lean towards the idea that everything is connected – you, me, that dog, those flowers, Jupiter, the cosmos. As Carl Sagan famously said, “We’re made of star stuff.” That deeply resonates with me, and my truth.

When I feel troubled, have a problem that needs to be worked out, or am generally feeling blue, I’ve learned to turn to this meditative state, and to find solace in the small things – my cats purring, the rose bush in bloom in the garden, a warm cup of coffee. I’ve found answers to many of life’s problems there, which is generally along the lines of “Take it easy. Don’t take yourself or your problems too seriously. We’re all part of the same machine. You’re not in this alone.”

But there are times when that isn’t enough, really. As I get older, problems seem to become more serious, more life-changing, more damaging – the potential for total annihilation seems to be around every corner. I’m having one of those moments right now. Where I’m confronted with a problem that I have discovered I don’t yet have the tools I need to really deal with it in a meaningful way. So I prayed.

Anne Lamott wrote a wonderful book a few years ago called Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers. In it she identifies three types of prayers – those where you ask for help, those where you thank God/the Universe because you are receiving the help you need, and those where you are so totally wowed you are speechless. I’m very familiar with the latter two, but I don’t have much experience with the first, so I decided to try it. What could it hurt?

There are many among my friends who dismiss prayer as a legitimate tool of assistance. Asking God to cure cancer seems totally futile. Is God going to reach down out of the sky with a giant hand and miraculously cure you? Probably not. But I’m coming around to the idea of asking for assistance through prayer. When I pray, I may pray to “God” (which I did this morning), but really, I am praying to myself (which, I literally believe to be true – we are all a part of “God” or have “God” inside us, whatever “God” is – that star stuff Carl Sagan was talking about).

I prayed for patience, and insight. I prayed to find the tools, the wisdom I need to deal with this particular issue with grace. I promised to clear my mind, let go of my more explosive emotions, and be on the lookout for the help that I need. I promised not to shut down, but instead to open up, to let go, to make space for the new light to fill, when it comes. I asked for help with all of this.

I’m asking myself to be open to new possibilities, to find new ways, to have more grace. I’m old enough to know that problems will never stop coming. No life is problem-free, and many of us face unbelievably heart-breaking challenges from time to time. I am wise enough to know that while I don’t have the tools I need yet to deal with this problem head-on, that this challenge is giving me the opportunity to learn new skills, to be a better person. To be a better me. I may arrive on the other side with a couple more wrinkles and a couple more pounds, but I will be smarter, my mind will be clearer, my heart will be stronger, and my soul will be more open.

I prayed today. And I think it helped. I’ll probably do it again sometime.

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