The Power of Prayer in Recovery

Seven days without prayer, makes one weak. –Anonymous

I have been wanting to write about this topic for a long time. More and more I have been noticing how important spirituality has become in my recovery, yet I still consider myself agnostic.

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I have never been a religious person. I think that I used to actually be atheist. Religion still boggles my mind and makes me feel uneasy. I think it’s mostly because when I was a kid no one actually explained it to me. I was told to learn this story and believe in it. But it did not make any sense to me as a kid, and I have always questioned it its authenticity. Of course I have nothing against any religion. I can truly see its importance in the lives of many.

Most of my life however, I had no faith, I had not beliefs and I had no spirituality. Eventually alcohol had become all of those for me. And when I made alcohol my higher power there sure was not much room for anything else. I was scientific, I proclaimed, and science can explain everything! Well… except for spirituality.

When I started my recovery journey, I couldn’t stay sober for more than a few months at a time. I was struggling something awful! I was irritable, discontent and just unhappy! I kept thinking that I was missing something and well, I was. Being part of the 12 step program I was often reminded that I needed a Higher Power, a God of my understanding, a belief in something greater than myself, a spiritual path to follow, and faith of some kind. This was quite a tall order for my, oh so scientific mind, and I was not having any part of it – I wouldn’t even repeat the Lord’s prayer at the end of 12-step meetings. Prayer seemed silly to me; there was no one listening, and who were all these people praying to anyway!?

Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. Who are you to say there is no God?  –Anonymous

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But after my last relapse I was at my wits end and I was ready to try anything to release me from the viscous alcoholic life. I knew I was missing some kind of spirituality but I just didn’t even know where to start looking for it. I read some books, but nothing really spoke to me. I talked to people and got even more confused! I decided that if I couldn’t just believe, I would force myself to accept it. I decided to let go of all my old beliefs and bought a little necklaces with a cross pendant. It felt really uncomfortable wearing it at first because it symbolized all that I didn’t believe in, but then again, what could it hurt I assumed, it’s just a necklaces, sort of like a rabbits foot, a favorite shirt, a lucky hat, or that magic rock!

I wore my necklace every single day and started to really believe that it had some magical powers. This simple act of wearing the necklaces become something way bigger than I would have ever imagined. It became my protector, it became my guide, and it became my hope! I even noticed that my urge to drink was lifted. Life started to bloom around me. My heart got softer and kinder. I was smiling more often! I even begun to feel happy!

I also started praying. First it was just a simple “Please help me stay sober.” and “Thank you for keeping me sober.” Then during the night when I could not asleep, I repeated the serenity prayer until I fell asleep; “God grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” I would also list all the things that I could not change and all the things that I could change. And I always asked for the wisdom to know the difference. This prayer alone has put my mind at ease many times! Then, I found myself praying in times of hardship and asking for patience, acceptance and forgiveness. When I was faced with difficult people I asked to be compassionate and caring. When had financial troubles I asked to have my worries taken away. I often used lines out of the Lord’s Prayer when dealing with my own wrongs and forgiveness, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” – as well as when I was having cravings for a drink – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” It seamed that all of the sudden, there was  some prayer that I could repeat that would help me during the difficult times!

Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world. — The Buddha

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I still can’t quite explain how all this works. I have actually been able to feel the guiding power in my life and in times of need it was always there to protect me and steer me in the right direction. So, I have continued this practice for a while now, and I have been able to get thru some really challenging times in my life, by simply believing in a Higher Power and praying. Of course, to my biggest surprise, whatever guidance or help I asked for I have received, which is really quite unbelievable but I am so very grateful for all this amazing love that seemed to have come from no where! Who knew?!

I have to mention here, that I always though that one had to follow a religion in order to be spiritual, I never though that you could be spiritual without actual religion. There was a long period in my journey that I was constantly searching for this great religion, but what I didn’t see was that spiritually is in each one of use, all we have to do is believe!

Today, I truly believe that there is a Higher Power that cares for all of us. I still do not believe in socialized religion but that’s ok. I have admired many Christian prayers and I have been able to rely on many Buddhist teachings. And for my guardian necklace, well, it took me a while to replace it with one a bit more fitting, but I think “believe” is just perfect. I still wear it every single day!

For all of you who are not quite sure about all this prayer business, I found this interesting article on WebMd, about a scientist who has spent 30 years studying the power of prayer and how it affects people. You can read it HERE. And if you find yourself to be irritable, discontent and just unhappy in recovery, try some prayer! Believe me, it will change your whole attitude and outlook on life!


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31 Comments Add yours

  1. momma bee says:

    This is great Maggie- I do believe that faith of some kind helps all. When I went thru my divorce, I couldn’t face church. It mad me sad, and at church I was present and real with my thoughts and feelings. I stopped going. The next few years is when I turned booze and things got bad. When I started my recovery Journey last fall I was still missing something. This time around I started back at church and something clicked. I also added AA meetings and now I finally feel happy and on the right track. I am blessed now and feel better & proud about my sobriety. I really believe going back to my faith is the difference. A blogger the other day said she didn’t believe so she didn’t want to go to AA, I tried to explain it’s not what u think. Give it try….. So happy for you Maggie!!!

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    1. Hi Momma Bee! I am so glad that return to faith has really helped you too, I have been reading your posts and it sure does look like things are finally falling into place for you! I know that spirituality is so hard for us to explain, and it seems to be such a blocker for many looking into the 12-step program for help. But it really doesn’t have to be, yet we make it so, why? Maybe it’s part of the disease, maybe the disease just keeps us so closed minded… Who knows, I just wanted to share this because I feel like if I can turn to prayer and show that it’s working in my life, maybe it would be easier for others to be open to it.

      Thanks for the great comment! Hugs!

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      1. momma bee says:

        I am not sure but I’m thinking b/c alcohol somehow took over almost all aspects of my life w/o realizing it. When I went back to fellowship the light went off and I knew exactly what I was missing. I just feel like I’m where I am supp. To be. Finally!!!! Thanks for the kind words! MB

        Liked by 1 person

  2. momma bee says:

    Reblogged this on momma bee and commented:
    Great post from Maggie for anyone struggling with sobriety who have a hard time using God or a belief in a higher power…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the reblog!

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      1. momma bee says:

        It was awesome, had to share! If it helps just one person it’s so worth it, right?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Most definitely!!

          Like

  3. I loved this Maggie. Just reading your words about prayer slows my heart rate down and makes me calmer. I had a very strict, religious upbringing and it almost ruined me! Fortunately, it was through prayer/meditation and purposeful spirituality that I was able to overcome my own scientific mind and just believe without worrying about the associated religion. Now I’m able to pray all of the time–none of which ever takes place in the front pew. Sending you my own prayers and gratitude this morning 🙂

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    1. OH, thanks MamaMick! Sending many prayers back! I think that prayer calms me down too, clears my mind, and lets me stay in the moment. It’s so powerful and yet, I felt a bit funny writing about something that I couldn’t quite explain, ok, I really can’t explain ! LOL! But there it is, the proof is in the action, that alone makes a believer out of me for sure!

      Thank you for stopping by! Hugs.

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  4. Great post, Maggie.

    Many thing that God is the religious one from the Bible or whatnot. I guess the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t do anything to dispell the myth! But as you know, it’s a spiritual path we are on and our HP need not fit or conform to any religion. I am not religious – never have been. I used to make fun of religious people, but deep down I always wanted to have that kind of faith…in anything. I was jealous that these folks had an undying connection and faith to something and I didn’t.

    I know many atheists / agnostics in the program and do well. As long as they see that something of equal or lower power won’t help them, then they seek something greater…as you did. I have seen too many “smart” folks get ravaged by this illness. So I think what you wrote here is very powerful and can help a lot of people who may struggle with that part. Because frankly, without a HP, there isn’t much of a program.

    Thank you for this, Maggie – what a wonderful thing to read this morning 🙂

    Paul

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    1. Hi Paul! Thank you for the kind words. I have to say that I surely have thought that you were definitely religious! I somehow have interpreted the word “creator” that you use quite often, as part of a religion, and I was actually jealous of your connection to your HP! LOL! That of course got me thinking about how many other people that I think are religious, and are not religious at all! Interesting… I have to also mention that I always though that one had to follow a religion in order to be spiritual, I never though that you could be spiritual without actual religion. There was a long period in my journey that I was constantly searching for this great religion, but what I didn’t see was that spiritually is in each one of use, all we have to do is tap into it!

      Great comment Paul! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  5. Beautiful post, Maggie. I don’t know how prayer works, I just know it does. I think it has to do with purposefully connecting to the energy that binds us all. It somehow makes us all stronger.

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    1. Thanks Karen! I totally agree, no clue why it works, but I know that it does! I like what you said, “purposefully connecting to the energy that binds us all.” that is pretty cool thought, because I totally believe that my HP speaks thru the people that I meet in my life, so that would make absolute sense! Thanks! Hugs!

      Like

  6. Laurie G.F. says:

    Brilliant post! Reminds me of one of my favorite stories in the book, “Our Southern Friend,” which is echoed in chapter 4: “Who are you to say there is no God?” The other day, a woman new to recovery came in saying that she was going to go into rehab (she was already sober, mind you) so that she could learn more and understand how this works. I just wanted to laugh and say, “Honey, if you wait until you can understand this thing, you’ll never be sober. You just gotta do it.” There’s so much about recovery that doesn’t make any logical sense, but somehow, just like we always say, “It works, if you work it.”

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    1. OMG! That might have been me some years ago! I really thought that I could like learn it or something! LOL! But yeah, it didn’t work, you really do have to do it to believe it! I love that line “Who are you to say there is no God?” I mean really! I how do I know that there is no God? LOL! I still only know but a little! 🙂

      Thanks Laurie! Glad you stopped by. Hugs.

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  7. 365 Reasons says:

    I used to always be uncomfortable with prayer. I felt it was someone forcing their religious beliefs on me when they said “I will pray for you.” I wanted to tell them to save their time. When I tried AA before, I used to pretend I believed in god but I think since I was only pretending, it did not work. After traveling and meeting people of almost every religion, I now think of prayer as energy. Instead of “I will pray for you” I started to hear it as “I will send you good energy.” For me, thinking of gods and goddesses and higher power as positive energy that is moving my life forward and away from alcohol helps.

    Tibetan prayer flags are meant to send your prayers to heaven when the wind blows. My prayers to stay sober are just like the wind sending a message to whatever powers are out there.

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    1. That’s awesome! I love the Tibetan flags and the idea of sending good energy. I remember thinking the same when people said they were praying for me, and more like, you think I need your prayer, you think there is something wrong with me? But omg, I sure needed all those prayers. I was broken fir sure!
      Great comment! Thanks, hugs!

      Like

  8. Art Mowle says:

    Absolutely marvelous 🙂 I’m so happy that you have found your Higher Power and spirituality in your life. I have the same “cross” story. I bought one when I first entered the rooms. I wanted everyone to think I believed. As you know, I had to learn that too. I still have mine on. I had open heart surgery and fought them to not take it off. They did, but when I woke up 14 hours later, there it was around my neck. My daughter had put it back on. Great post Maggie 🙂

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    1. Hi Art! That is a touching story about your necklace! Wow! It’s truly amazing how just a little belief can help us along so much. I love that saying- Just believe and you’re half way there! Good stuff. Thanks Art! Hugs.

      Like

  9. mishedup says:

    wonderful post Maggie…
    I never really believed in “god”, tho I was raised catholic and then became quite involved with a christian church. When my husband died i could finally vent all my anger at the god that i didn’t believe in.
    that god had me crossed armed and mad as a hornet in the back row of Aa meetings, and as I started my steps arguing with my sponsor about how “right” i was that it was all just one big call to jesus.
    now i get it, 3 years in. and i am still getting it, little by little, day by day. i prayed from early on, because i did what my sponsor told me to do, but it meant nothing. Now I can at least accept and believe that the universe is conspiring for my happiness rather than my demise,and that feels authentic right now. Mindfullness practice and meditation, along with yoga, is rocking my spiritual world and i am so grateful to have that connection that i never thought was possible for me.
    It enhances my sobriety, but more importantly, it enhances my life. This stuff is so hard to explain to people, you did a lovely job.

    Like

    1. Thank you Mishedup! I was completely in the same boat after my mom died. I was sooo angry at God. But my sponser kept saying- that’s ok, God can handle it! Lol! And I love what you said about the universe conspiring for your happiness rather than your demise. That was a huge turning point for me, I honestly thought that everyone was against me including my HP that I didn’t believe in. Today I can see the things in my life that I had no doin in and how they have changed my life. I truly believe that I did not get sober all by myself, because believe me, by myself I would still be drinking!

      Sending many hugs!

      Ps. I read your awesome post today! I left a comment but it said it was awaiting moderation. I haven’t seen that before on your site, thought I’d mention it.

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      1. mishedup says:

        thanks for mentioning that..weird!
        I approved it, but have no idea why it was up for moderation.
        word press is odd at times!

        Like

  10. Al K Hall says:

    i used to be super religious as a teen and then became a hedonist. In recovery, i’ve learned that i can be spiritual without being religious. (One of my favorite AA quotes is, “Religion is for people afraid of going to hell, Spirituality is for those who have already been.”) The key for me is that i have to recognize that, because i am unable to control my addicition, i have to give control of that up to something more powerful than i, that exists outside of myself. My idea of what that is, exactly, is very vague, but i don’t need to know everything!

    As for prayer, i’m a big fan though i don’t do it a lot. What i really like about it is that it helps me remain humble, and humility helps me remember i am unable to control my addictions.

    Love these thought provoking posts!

    Like

    1. I love the quote! For me too, it’s important to know that I am not in charge. And that is a relief in it self. I used to always want to be in control of everything, you know that is a lot of work! It is quite freeing to know that I don’t have too do that.

      Prayer for me I suppose is more of a meditation, it helps when I am struggling with someone or something. It helps when I am all up in my head. It It reminds me too, to stay humble and loving.

      Great comment Al! Thank you!

      Like

  11. Maggie, I love this post. Like you, I have so struggled with this spirituality thing for a long time. I live in the dang buckle of the Bible belt. Folks in these parts are adamant that we are all going to burn in hell unless we repent daily. Grew up in church and questioned everything I learned starting at age 4 or 5. My parents were not fundamental at all, thankfully. They were also involved in 12-step programs most of my life. I find myself going back to things I learned in my own Al-Anon program years ago. I’ll probably try AA at some point. For some reason, just not quite ready. In the meantime, I use a prayer journal, praying to no particular HP. Just whatever is there. Plan to add a regular yoga practice and to strengthen my meditation. Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great! I often wonder why we are so blocked in our heads to things that can really help!? Who knows! I think as long as we are open to new things, to change, to prayer, even is it not to one in particular! I didn’t want to go to AA, but I didn’t know where else to go… it turned out to be the best thing I have ever done for my sobriety!

      Great comment, thank you! Hugs.

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  12. Another great post, Maggie! It will really help people who struggle with the concept of a Higher Power. I have a deep respect for those who succeeded in our Fellowship while believing themselves agnostic, and you just described the journey so well!

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  13. The true POWER of prayer lies within the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, all which must be done in deed and in truth. Colossians 3 v 5 to 15 unveil these deeds as commanded by God and it is clear that prayer is powerless and worthless if what God commands His followers is not obeyed in the Eternal Light Jesus Christ. Prayer must never be self-centered in any way. Prayer must be centered on the righteousness of God at all times, by obeying His every command no matter the cost. There is no and never will be any other way than this to have the true power in prayer. The truth from a humble servant of Jesus Christ, the truth, the way and the life.

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    1. Hi, thank you for stopping by my blog and this kind comment. Hugs.

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  14. Lisa W. says:

    Thanks for this very thoughtful post, Maggie. I appreciate your focus on finding your own way spiritually. Spirituality does not have to be rigidly defined, and I have discovered for myself, that it changes over time. That does not mean I lose a sense of it. Actually, I strengthen myself spiritually the more open I am to all that it can mean, and offer. Prayer and turning things over to a Higher Power…those are difficult for me. I tend to get stuck on tangling those concepts up with the religion that was forced on me as a child. But still I try, because I know those practices are essential to healthy recovery.

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    1. Great comment! Thanks Lisa!

      Like

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