I was not raised within the framework of a religion, apart from the Hallmark version of the Christian holidays. So, when it came time for me to find a higher power of my own understanding and learn to pray, I struggled a bit.
In meetings, I have always been impressed by those who could recite lengthy prayers from the Big Book, verbatim. Some people, for whom I have the deepest respect, pray these daily and follow up with a solid round of meditation. In my search for serenity, I have also followed many a non-program guru providing suggested prayers and/or meditations for specific concerns or to manifest particular forms of abundance.
I believe that all of the above can work. But I have found I can’t practice them. For one, most suggested prayers are too long and complicated. My memory is just not that good. And even if I felt comfortable reading an affirmation or prayer out loud from a book, I often can’t relate to parts of them. Or they are just too contrived and I can’t say them with a straight face (I hope to grow out of that one day). This leaves me feeling disingenuous and/or hokey, which takes me right out of the spiritual groove.
Then there’s the meditation and attention span thing…squirrel!
So what’s a girl to do?
I have finally negotiated what seems to be a workable arrangement with my feeble memory, growing self-acceptance, and somewhat open mind. I use a combination of short, meaningful phrases I repeat like mantras, followed by conversational prayer where I spill my guts freestyle.
When I am not in enough distress or am short on time or privacy, I stick with the mantras. They also help when I am not quite ready to face, let alone verbalize, the shit storm of my worried mind. I say them over and over in my head while focusing on my breath or simply say them out loud a few times until I feel centered.
My favorite go-to “short prayer” is some variation of:
God, please help me do the next right thing.
When feeling particularly challenged I expand this to:
Help me do the next right thing and the next right thing
as I move throughout the day.
This is one prayer I can recite entirely with pure intention. It helps me build up a charge of spiritual energy that carries me out of “stuck” and into the flow of my day. It provides me with a little buffer against my default inclinations (which usually are not useful, kind or life-affirming).
Others I have used are short excerpts of common prayers and recycled bits of wisdom we hear in the rooms:
Thy will not mine be done…
Relieve me of the bondage of self…
Live and let live.
There are any number of on-point prayer-shorts available in program and other spiritual literature. I use the ones that are closest to mind when I am practicing Step 11 maintenance and, especially, when I am hurtling toward the emotional deep end.
If your experience with prayer is more like the brilliant people who have the book memorized or who were born and raised in faith, mazel tov! I am still, seriously, in awe of you. But for this recovering human, size matters…and I’m going short.