“If the only prayer you ever said was thank you, that would be enough.”
I was brought up a devout atheist, so for many years my only experience of prayer was having to recite the Lord’s Prayer, parrot-fashion, in school assemblies.
I was so disinterested in praying that when I was little I actually thought the opening line was: ‘Are father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name.’
It didn’t trouble me that this didn’t actually make any sense; to me none of it made any sense.
Why were we only to be given daily bread? What about biscuits or cake?
And who was supposed to deliver us from evil? The postman?
It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I made my first, proper heartfelt prayer – when my then partner was having life-saving and very possibly life-threatening brain surgery.
I was so overcome by fear that I found myself in the hospital chapel, uttering a one-word prayer, over and over again.
That prayer was ‘please‘.
Please let the surgery be successful.
Please don’t let him die.
What happened next would plant the seed that would send me on the spiritual adventure that would ultimately grow into this website and a book: I experienced a sudden and intense rush of peace.
It was as if I’d been rebooted and reset just like a computer. From terror to tranquillity in a couple of seconds. It felt completely inexplicable.
In fact, the closest thing to an explanation I could come up with was that maybe there was something in all this spirituality and God business.
Maybe there was actually something more to life than what we could see.
Fast forward several years to today. I’m still not a member of any religion but I’m a firm believer in the existence of something more.
And I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer as part of that.
Prayer offers us an opportunity to sink into stillness and access a deeper source of peace and wisdom.
Some people would say that that peace and wisdom is God.
Others might refer to it as ‘The Universe’ or ‘creative energy’ or ‘Love and light’.
You could even call it your inner peace and wisdom.
It doesn’t matter. Really, it doesn’t.
What matters is that something magical happens when you stop and go within and ask for comfort or guidance.
So, even if you aren’t a member of a religion, I urge you to give prayer a go.
Take some time when you won’t be interrupted and sit in silence and stillness.
Create a picture in your mind’s eye of who or what you are praying to. This could be Love, your own inner wisdom, or the energy at the heart of the universe and all creation.
Then start talking to them like you’re confiding in a trusted friend.
Reveal your deepest fears.
Talk about the things that are stressing you or making you angry or confused.
And ask for guidance.
The next step is possibly the most important, but ironically one which many people forget, and that is to listen for the answers.
Praying is a two-way conversation, not a monologue.
Sit in silence for a while. Or, if you have to get up and go, remain open to receiving the answers to your prayers throughout your day.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve made a heartfelt prayer in the morning and just the right answer has popped into my head or been shown to me later in the day.
Remember to keep your ears and eyes open for guidance.
If you’re brand new to praying you might like to start with a beautiful Hawaiian prayer called Ho’oponopono, which is a prayer for reconciliation and forgiveness. Simply repeat the following words, over and over:
“I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.”
Keep repeating them until you feel the words of the prayer working their magic and your guilt or grievances melting away.
In my experience, the more you pray, the more powerful prayer becomes … the more you become attuned to that source of inner wisdom and peace.
I pray every day, whenever the need takes me – whether that’s when I’m sitting on my meditation cushion or in the queue for a coffee or riding the bus.
It’s like having a very wise, strong and loving friend on speed-dial and it’s completely transformed my life.