When was the last time you were down on your knees? When you closed your eyes, bowed your head and let it all out to the Universe in a heart-felt, tear-stained, honest to goodness prayer?
For some of us, prayer has negative associations – and understandably so. Having grown up in strict religious homes, prayer brings up painful memories of reciting countless Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers’ to seek forgiveness and avoid retribution for our ‘sins’. For others, prayer is an act of desperation reserved solely for when we’ve exhausted all other options.
“If you let me date this guy, I promise I’ll be a better daughter to my mom.”
“If you give me this promotion, I’ll donate ten per cent of everything I earn to charity.”
But what if prayer wasn’t about asking the Universe for what we want, but positioning ourselves to receive what it already has for us?
Prayer is like a spiritual reset button. It’s an act of surrender that reminds us of all the beautiful things we have to be grateful for. By aligning our thoughts with a higher perspective, prayer enables us to rise above life’s obstacles and get a glimpse of the meaning and purpose behind our current circumstances. When things don’t go our way, all we need to do is ask God (or whomever or whatever connects to you) to shift our perception and He will begin to show us the missing pieces of the puzzle, reassure us that this is all part of a greater plan and give us guidance on how to move forward. In this way, prayer helps to shift the collective consciousness of the planet by reminding us of our inherent connectedness with each other and the Source of all life.
Sometimes life brings us to our knees, so we can start to pray.
When I started including prayer as a part of my daily practice, I found I was less anxious, I had more clarity and a deep and abiding peace began to permeate every aspect of my life. When the world tried to define me by my past mistakes, prayer reminded me who I really was. When I began to doubt my worth and seek validation outside myself, a few moments in the presence of God showed me that everything I needed could already be found inside me. It was as though a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders when I realised I didn’t have to navigate this life alone and there was a never ending source of strength and Divine guidance available to me in every moment.
So if we’re not reciting passages from the Bible or bargaining with the Divine, how are we supposed to pray?
First, ask yourself, who does it feel right to pray to? Is it God, The Universe, Your Higher Self or even a guardian angel? Then carve out a time in your day that feels sacred to you. It doesn’t have to be a formal affair, it could be as simple as getting in the shower at night and having a conversation with God about your day. What went well? What are you worried about?
If you are stuck on what to say, these 3 simple steps will help you get the most out of your practice:
1. Start with Gratitude.
Give thanks to the Creator for all the wonderful things in your life right now. Start small; a roof over your head, food on the table, family and friends, and work your way outwards; the freedom to do what you love, the support of your tribe, the privilege of being alive in a time of infinite possibility.
Even if the only prayer you ever said was ‘Thank you’, that would be enough. -Eckhart Tolle
2. Lay it all out.
Tell God what’s going on, give Him a rundown on the current state of your life – the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes just saying things out loud sparks new insights and gives us clarity we didn’t have before. Go into detail, and don’t be afraid to ask the big questions. Even if you don’t get an answer right away, it will come later in a book you read, a conversation you have or an opportunity that comes your way. Some great questions to start are, “Who do I need to forgive?” or “What do I need to let go of in order to move forward?” Repeat your prayer daily and be on the lookout for a response.
Don’t worry about taking up too much time or coming across as needy, time doesn’t exist in the metaphysical realm and the Universe loves hearing all of your challenges, fears, hopes and dreams for your life.
3. Give it all up.
The most powerful prayer you will ever say is, “Your will be done.” When you surrender your best laid plans and intentions to the Universe and say, “Okay, now you take it from here.” Surrender doesn’t mean giving up or taking a lets-just-see-what-happens approach to life, it means aligning your desires with the calling placed on your life. Often we get so caught up in what we think we should be doing, or what the world (our parents, friends, society) wants us to do, that we neglect the gentle murmurs of our soul as it tries to guide us toward our true purpose.
As children of the Universe, we are already programmed to self actualise and reach our full potential in this lifetime (in the same way a tiny acorn already holds the blueprint for a massive oak tree and an embryo already has everything it needs to become a baby). All we have to do is get out of our own way and continue following that still, small voice within. One of my favourite prayers is, “Use me, Lord, that I might know the joy of being used by you.”
Churches are great for prayer, but so are mountains and cars and showers and dance floors. -Anne Lamott
Of course you can also pray for safety, protection, for clarity around a particular situation. You can pray for world peace and the alleviation of suffering everywhere. You can also magnify the power of the experience by including others in your practice. When you wake up in the morning, say a prayer with your partner. Ask for protection over their lives, favor over their circumstances and pray that your relationship would grow stronger through the trials you face. If you have children, find a prayer that resonates with you and teach it to them. Start at the dinner table and together before bed, you will be amazed at how quickly their young minds are shaped by repeating such life affirming words.
If all else fails, just have a conversation. God/the Creator/the Divine isn’t angry with you, nor does He/She want to punish you for anything you’ve done. He just wants to be part of your life, He wants to comfort, guide and help you become the happiest, most perfect version of yourself.
Wherever you are right now, no matter how long it’s been or how much resistance you feel, take this opportunity to open up the lines of communication.