I’ve been getting a lot of messages lately on the power of prayer. As a child and into adulthood, prayer was the only form of contact with the Divine that I knew of. I grew up with a devout Roman Catholic mother and she required that I attend and honor the forms of her religion. It was the only thing I knew.
As an adult, I had my own search. I never found a religion that answered all my questions or made me feel very happy. What I did find was people who were willing to share their experiences with me and how they prayed. And I am eternally grateful to them. I found God in other people and in what they were willing to share of themselves with me. I am grateful that there were many of these teachers and they came from all walks of ordained and non-ordained life.
I started praying on a regular basis because I was in pain. There was something in my life that I did not like and I wanted it to change. At first, it would be a scream in my mind.
“God! How can you let this happen to me?!”
And then there was silence.
Nothing happened. Nothing changed. At least not that I was aware of.
Eventually, I got to a place where I gave up. I wanted to do whatever I could to make the pain stop. I set aside time. I got on my knees and I took a traditional Christian prayer stance because it was the only thing I knew.
And I let it all pour out. All the people who were hurting me. All the things in my life that were not the way they were supposed to be. All the situations I couldn’t control and that I needed help to understand and to influence.
Life continued. Some things got better and some things got worse.
And then I heard something that made a huge difference to me.
“Prayer doesn’t change other people. Prayer changes us.”
I did NOT like that statement at all.
I was doing everything right. I was bending over backwards to be “good.” And I expected a reward. I expected that if I did all the “right” things that life would go the way I wanted it. I expected that people would do what I wanted them to do if I prayed that they would do those things. I expected that God would make my life smoother, easier if I prayed and talked to him on a regular basis. I expected that I would get the lover, the money, the physique, the career, the fill-in-the-blank that I wanted because I was praying.
I had just enough self-knowledge to know that if something rubbed me the wrong way there was benefit to looking at why. There was some part of myself that I was resisting. So I tried to sit with it. I lasted all of 10 seconds.
Shortly after I heard this statement, I found myself in a very trying situation. I was accused of child abuse by a woman with mental illness. My world had turned upside down and I had no idea what to do. There really is very little one can actually do in this situation other than be completely honest with the investigators and contact an attorney. So, I did what I could and I prayed. I had developed a new conception of a higher power that worked for me and I used it every moment I could.
The next idea that I heard which turned my world around was how to handle resentment. I was angry with this woman. Every person I talked with reassured me that every thing would be fine, that they would be happy to provide any type of reference as to my competence as a mother. I was grateful. And I kept praying. The advice I was given was to pray for the person who had hurt me and to be specific. Not to pray for her to change her mind and rescind the accusation but to think of all the things I wanted for myself -to make a list even – and to get on my knees and pray for her to have all these things.
This was hard.
I did not want her to have all the things that I wanted. I did not see how this would help.
But there was nothing I could do to affect this outcome but wait.
And love flows. It doesn’t restrict or put limitations on where it flows. So, every time I was scared about losing my children I prayed. I wrote down a list of all the things I wanted in my life. I was specific – a house with a wraparound porch, time and money to spend with my kids, a trip to Macchu Picchu, a new Harley motorcycle, the red dress I saw in the window last week. It was hard to feel good enough about myself to write down things I wanted for myself. I was never taught to reach or ask for things. I grew up learning how to settle. But I needed to do this for my own healing. I made the list and read it out loud asking for her to have all of these things that I wanted and didn’t have.
And I did it again and again. Even if I was crying.
Then I went and did something to comfort and take care of myself, whatever occurred to me at the time.
Weeks and months passed.
Nothing seemed to change.
And then I started to feel an opening. I started to see how this woman was mentally ill and felt attacked and suspicious of others. I could see how she was scared and fearful and didn’t know anything other than lashing out to communicate.
And I loved her. I saw how she was projecting her pain out into the world and it was everything she saw.
I wept for her pain.
I wanted to hug her and help her heal. I wanted to tell her that life is more than that.
But that wasn’t my path. She was not in a space to receive anything from me. So I asked God to create a situation of healing for both of us if that was meant to be.
And I went back to my life, now praying for her with renewed vigor. I was also positive that whatever the outcome that I and my children would be okay. I was peaceful and the people around me did not understand. And that was okay. Because I had peace with the situation and had other insights along the way.
Eventually, the case was dismissed and the accusations were declared unfounded. But I didn’t need that to happen for me to have peace. I had seen how prayer had changed me. And I had experienced the profound sense of aloneness in those moments when all I had was my desire to be love in the world, even when it felt disingenuous.
To me, prayer is another form of energy. And all is love. When we pray, we send out love; sometimes we send it to others and sometimes we send it to ourselves. I thought I was asking for God to change my life so I could be happy. Now I believe what I was doing was inviting the Divine in to my being so that I could be peace. No matter what happens.