The Right Way to Pray


Get on your knees before bedtime, and pray to God for forgiveness. Hold hands with your hungry family before supper and thank the man in the sky for blessing you with another stale meatloaf. Say 10 Hail Mary’s and call me in the morning. One of the biggest hurdles newly sober men and women face upon entering Alcoholics Anonymous or any other similarly structured 12-step program is prayer – how to do it, why to do it, and when to do it. For many individuals just entering recovery, the concept of praying seems nothing short of idiotic.

Praying to a God That I Don’t Believe In

After years of devastating and spirit-crushing substance abuse, it is not difficult to assume that God is either dead or has moved on to bigger and better things. The notion of kneeling down and giving thanks to an entity we feel has completely abandoned us simply does not add up. In fact, many of us come into the rooms not believing in any sort of higher power, believing in nothing more than human fallibility and kindness, assuming that we have gotten ourselves in to this mess and now it is our responsibility to get ourselves out of it… with a little help from our friends, perhaps. Our aspirations of spiritual neglect are shattered almost simultaneously upon stepping into our first meeting – the reviled “G” word is posted on the walls, smeared throughout the literature, and sitting attentively on the edges of the lips of those that came before us, ready to spring forth at a moments notice.

What Is The Right Way To Pray?

At first we tend to recoil from the concept of prayer as if from a hot flame, either deeming the practice for the blissfully ignorant, the brainwashed and soulless, or conceding to the belief that this Catholic school standard is best left buried in our God-fearing pasts. Yet if this truly is the last resort, which for all too many of us it surely is, we eventually agree to at very least try. Some of us are told to get our knees, a humbling action that reminds us we are small, and we do not have all the answers. Some of us are told to ask a higher power to remove self-seeking tendencies, or self-pity, or doubt. Some of us are told to pray for those who have harmed us, pray for those who we hate, pray for those who we love and cannot personally help. We take these suggestions as just that – suggestions; jumping off points from which we will formulate our own comfortable and beneficial concept and practice of ‘prayer’ as we understand it. Some will speak to God aloud as they sit in traffic, some will sing to God in the shower, and some (traditionalists) will kneel before their beds and say “thank you, thank you for this day”. No matter how we eventually decide to pray, and regardless of what this abstract notion comes to uniquely mean in our individual lives, we cannot do it wrong. Essentially, prayer refers to open communication between yourself and something greater, and if you maintain a loose grasp of this ideal, you are well on your way to divine intimacy.

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