Updated: Sep 6
The following is an excerpt from: "The Sober Journey: A Guide to Prayer and Meditation in Recovery"
What is prayer? It seems like such a simple question. After all, prayer is a word everyone has heard, like electricity or air or love. But what is prayer and how can
it help me improve my life?
That’s a question I always asked, long before I began to incorporate prayer into my daily life. As a child, I had an innate belief in some kind of force or personality that surrounded me and kept me safe. I can’t explain why I felt this way.
I wasn't raised in a religious home, so it was up to me to try to answer the question; what is this presence I feel? And is there a way to communicate with it?
One of the best things about early childhood is a lack of self-consciousness. When I was very young, I had no problem talking to God, usually out loud. To me, God felt like a friend who was always there, somewhere, even though I couldn’t see him/her/it (I want to clarify that I don’t think of God as male or female. To me, God is gender-neutral. I’m not trying to be politically correct by covering all my bases; I just feel that gender is something necessary to human evolution on earth, but probably irrelevant beyond our planet. So, I will sometimes interchange he/she/it when I refer to God.)
We all know about children having imaginary friends that they speak to and play with when they are alone. Maybe you had one yourself. To most children, these friends that can’t be seen by anyone else are as real to them as their own parents. They play together, carry on conversations, create games, and provide companionship and comfort.
At some point, however, the child starts going to school and interacting with other children and experiencing the world outside their home. It’s usually around this time that the child begins to show less and less interest in their imaginary friend, usually replacing that friendship in the pursuit of human friendship and material desires. The child becomes so immersed in the rituals of socializing that their focus on their “imaginary” friend is replaced by daily interaction with other people.
But what if that communication with an imaginary friend is actually a form of communication with God? What if the conversation the child is engaged in every day is really a form of prayer, wherein the child relies on an innate trust that there is a force or personality surrounding them, and that speaking with that presence is just a natural way of connecting with it?
The presence, or Higher Power, is already there. So, why not talk with it and play with it and allow it to provide comfort and companionship every day? To the child, there’s nothing shocking or strange about it; she’s just chatting with a friend.
An important part of prayer is a willingness to trust that there is something beyond what we can see and a reliance on what can only be felt through intuition. Can we become childlike again, trusting in an innate sense that there is more to life than meets the eye?
In many ways we are trained to become cynical or doubt the existence of anything that we can’t see or touch. We live in a society that is constantly selling us “stuff” and images of things we should own or possess. If we can’t see, touch, smell or taste it than what’s the point? Billions of dollars are spent every year on advertising all the latest gadgets we need to own in order to make us feel happy and satisfied. Whether it’s a new car, new clothes, the perfect house or the latest cell phone or computer, we are constantly encouraged to obtain things we can see and touch. Otherwise, nothing else seems to exist.
But our world is filled with things we can’t actually see but nonetheless we put our trust in them every day. Our lives depend on many things that are invisible to the naked eye but that can’t be touched with our hands.
Have you ever seen electricity? Have you ever touched air? What about gravity or love? The fact is that no one has ever seen electricity, air, gravity or love. They have only seen the effects of these things. The effect of electricity is light. The effect of air is our ability to breathe. The effect of gravity is that we stay attached to the earth. The effect of love is compassion and kindness.
None of these things can be seen or touched in and of themselves. Instead, they need to be discovered and used in the most positive ways possible. Electricity existed when cavemen walked the earth, but mankind hadn’t yet discovered it. Only when it was discovered and understood was its power harnessed and utilized to our benefit.
Don’t believe me? Then take this moment to grab a handful of air and put it into your pocket. Or look for electricity in your house, not the results of electricity like a light bulb or television working, but actual electricity. Do you have children or a friend or a pet that you love? Can you locate that love and place it on a table for a few minutes like a coin? None of these things can actually be see or touched, but we trust that they exist and use them every day.
God, in my opinion, acts in the same way as electricity, air, gravity or love. God exists and is always present, but we’ve only discovered one way to communicate with God—through prayer. Just because God can’t be seen or touched like another human being doesn’t mean the power of God can’t be discovered and used to enhance our life every day.
Prayer is simply a way for us, using our minds, to speak with God, just like turning on a lamp is a way for us to benefit from the existence of electricity. You are a spiritual being having a physical experience here on earth. But God is pure spirit (and again, without gender). So, in order to speak with God, we need to use our minds—the one part of ourselves that is most closely aligned with our spiritual nature.
Prayer is the act of direct communication, using our minds, in an effort to activate a rapport with God or Spirit. Prayer is nothing more than a pathway, or channel, that directs our thoughts and ideas towards a Higher Power with the intention of benefiting from that power.