What do you think of when you hear the word “prayer”? Usually, prayer is something that most of us associate with religion.
I know that when I hear the word “prayer” it instantly takes me back to the dogmatic teachings of my childhood.
I remember sitting in the pew for years upon years listening to the empty, dull, and formulaic repetitions of the preachers. Sitting there silently, the lack of zest, depth, and authentic feeling underneath these “holy invocations” made my skin crawl.
I couldn’t understand why talking to God was so openly pious, but inwardly hollow.
For others, prayer is linked with a chintzy, cute, and immature form of spirituality.
I’m talking about that muffin-baking, holier-than-thou, goodly-housewife-born-again-Christian kinda vibe.
You might also associate prayer with people like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons and his progeny, or those squeaky clean Jehovah Witnesses that knock on your door every now and then.
And still, for some people who don’t come from a Western context, prayer might be associated with Salat (Muslim ritualistic prayer), or even the traditional honor of gods and goddesses.
Whatever background you come from, it’s likely that you need to unpack, reimagine, and rejuvenate your thoughts and beliefs about prayer.
Without being open to changing your definition of prayer, you’ll continue to perceive it through the lens of your religious, cultural, or societal conditioning – and usually, those associations ain’t that great!
I want to invite you to see prayer in a different light, untainted by its somber past. I want to invite you to find the magic in it once more.
Rediscovering the power of prayer has been a humbling yet empowering journey for me. I’d love for you to rediscover its beauty again too.
Table of contents
- Prayer and Spiritual Awakening
- Why the Power of Prayer is so Undervalued
- Gifts of Prayer
- How to Practice the Power of Prayer
- Reflect on the Power of Prayer
Prayer and Spiritual Awakening
Before we go any further, I want to start out by saying that prayer doesn’t need to be just a side hustle when it comes to undergoing major life shifts.
Prayer is an ancient practice that deserves a central place in your life.
By helping you to let go, practice humility, and get out of your own way, prayer teaches you to align with the core qualities of growth and spiritual healing.
Pretty amazing for such a simple and unassuming path I’d say!
Why the Power of Prayer is so Undervalued
Of all the spiritual gifts and paths out there, prayer is probably one of the most — if not THE MOST — undervalued.
In fact, I will go so far as to say that prayer is rarely even written about in the self-help field. (And I read through a lot of self-help material out there.)
I mean, how many times have you read, heard about, or seen (non-dogmatic-religious people) proclaim the power of prayer? Probably not much.
Prayer is a black sheep in the spiritual community.
So you see, prayer always seems to get a bad rap.
But I think one of the main aversions that we have to prayer is our egotism. After all, we are the “do-it-yourself” society.
We currently value self-sufficiency, strength, and power over all else.
For this reason, prayer can be perceived as somewhat “weak” and self-effacing to the modern mind.
Common misconceptions about prayer include:
- The idea that it makes you a failure (because you have to ask for help)
- The belief that you’re not worthy of help in the first place
- The belief that God/Divine/Source is a spiteful, ruthless, and fearsome force, which makes prayer dangerous
- And of course, the multitude of damaging associations with prayer and its murky past
In reality, prayer is often the last thing we resort to when in a crisis. Only after we’ve dried out our last spiritual resources do we think of praying.
The truth is that our lives would change drastically if prayer was the FIRST thing we turned to in a time of need, or even in a moment of gratitude. After all, prayer is a direct bridge to the Divine.
Prayer is also not a “passive” thing, as is so commonly believed.
I held this very belief for a long time. I always thought that saying a few words didn’t really change anything.
In fact, the very act of prayer itself seemed pointless to me, particularly after I left fundamentalist religion. Because of that, I shut myself off to prayer for a long time.
But this mistaken belief about the power of prayer could not be further from the truth. Prayer is actually one of the most active spiritual tools out there.
As author Dostoyevsky once wrote,
Be not forgetful of prayer … prayer is an education.
In other words, not only does prayer open us up to higher guidance, it actually helps us to be receptive to the lessons we most need to learn.
Gifts of Prayer
Prayer has gifted me with so much love and gratitude that I make it my goal to say at least one prayer each day. I have found it to be such an energetic, influential force of change that I can’t do without it!
Here are some gifts of prayer you’ll receive if you incorporate this practice regularly into your life. Some of these benefits are even scientifically backed:
- Increases receptivity and openness to life
- Improves self-confidence
- Enhances feelings of safety and security
- Improves relationships with others
- More mindfulness
- More synchronicity
- More unexpected gifts
- More gratitude
- More forgiveness and self-forgiveness
- More connection with the Divine
- Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety
- Increases feelings of inner wholeness
- Increases trust in self and life
- Induces transcendental experiences of Oneness
As you can see, the power of prayer is immense. It can transform nearly every dimension of your life.
How to Practice the Power of Prayer
The inner voice is something which cannot be described in words. But sometimes we have a positive feeling that something in us prompts us to do a certain thing. The time when I learnt to recognise this voice was, I may say, the time when I started praying regularly.― Mahatma Gandhi
Here’s how to reimagine and rediscover the magic and power of prayer:
1. Be willing to surrender your previous ideas about prayer
As I mentioned above, you might need to go on a “detox” of your perceptions towards prayer. This ‘cleansing’ process might include deeply examining how you feel about prayer, asking where those beliefs came from, and contemplating how to approach prayer differently.
For me, rekindling my love affair with prayer involved sitting down and thinking about the many mistaken beliefs I carried. Journaling and meditation were great allies in this process, as was practicing Lectio Divina.
You’ll know when you have a healthier relationship with prayer when the very thought of praying no longer makes you internally cringe.
2. Choose another name for “God”
You don’t need to be religious to pray and you certainly don’t need to believe in the “bearded-old-white-guy-in-the-sky” (because come on, that’s an outdated and essentially racist and sexist way of thinking about God!)
For prayer to be powerful, you need to think about what the highest possible good looks and feels like to you.
Choose a name to replace the word “God” that feels comfortable and meaningful to you. Examples include Source, Consciousness, Love, Beloved, Divine, Goddess, Shiva, Allah, etc.
3. Pray for what you need, but also what you’re thankful for
God isn’t a pimp. He/She/It doesn’t give you things because you are His/Hers/Its servant. This is what the majority of religious thought would have us believe.
Surrender the idea that God is anything other than a universal source of complete unconditional love.
Let go of the idea that God is there to punish, control or condemn you.
Tune into what God/Divine actually means to you on a deep, heart-felt, soul level.
The true “sin” here is not in denying the existence of God, the true “sin” is believing that God is even capable of hurting you in the first place.
When you’re praying to God, you’re praying to that boundless, egoless source of love that is your True Nature.
This divine source of purity and peace wants the very best for you.
(If you’ve had a mystical experience before, you’ll know this.)
Prayer is a way of communing with this Divine source. Prayer is essentially a way of allowing the Beloved to fulfill its ultimate desire: for you to be happy, whole, and at peace.
Thanking God/Love/Divine will also increase your gratitude for life tenfold.
The more you find to be thankful for, the happier you’ll feel, and the happier you feel, the more you’re thankful for. It’s a beautiful cycle!
You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
4. Allow your prayer to come from the heart
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice: pray from the heart.
If you don’t, if you repeat by rote old verses, if you say the same thing over and over again, your prayers will feel dead. Your connection to the Divine will perish (at least consciously).
Instead, when you pray, pray from the soul. You don’t need to speak out loud. In fact, my most heartfelt prayers are said silently. (Feel free to experiment with both out-loud and silent approaches – figure out what works for you!)
Making up prayers as you go is also a much more authentic way to pray.
However, if you find a prayer written by someone else that speaks to your heart, by all means, use it! There are no set-in-stone rules here.
God/Divinity doesn’t care what you say, but how you say it, aka. emotional sincerity is what counts.
Here is a sample prayer:
Dear Beloved, all things in my life are sourced from you. Every blessing I have is because of you. My breath is yours, my mind is yours, my heart is yours, my body is yours, my soul is yours, my spirit is yours. I am yours, and you are mine. Let me embody you in my daily life. Let my life become an expression of your radiance and purity. Help me to surrender what no longer serves me. Help me to know what questions to ask and places to look when I am stuck. I give my trust to you unconditionally. I love you. Amen/so may it be.
At heart, I am a mystic. So all of my prayers are mystical and have an ecstatic quality.
You might have another type of heart: the heart of a musician, artist, architect, or philosopher.
Let your prayers embody whatever comes the most naturally to you.
Reflect on the Power of Prayer
For you to continue praying, it’s crucial that you reflect on the power of prayer in your life.
How has it helped you in times of need or want, even subtly? How has it filled you with more goodness? What changes has prayer brought to your life?
The more you reflect on prayer, the more you’ll realize what an immense force of good it is in your life.
I strongly recommend keeping a journal to help you reflect upon and learn from this grace-filled experience. (Here’s a free guide on how to journal to support you.)
So tell me, what is your relationship with prayer? Has it been tainted by your religious or cultural context? And if you regularly pray, how has the power of prayer transformed your life?