Author Q&A: Debra Landwehr Engle

Now Featured at the Patheos Book Club
The Only Little Prayer You Need
The Shortest Route to a Life of Joy, Abundance, and Peace of Mind
By Debra Landwehr Engle
Foreword by Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

Author Q&A: Debra Engle

What's your background?

I'm an author, teacher and co-founder of a program of personal and spiritual growth for women called Tending Your Inner Garden. I've also studied A Course in Miracles for almost 30 years, and I've been teaching it for 10 years. The Course is known around the world as a self-study program in spiritual psychotherapy, addressing such themes as forgiveness, fear and love.

Why did you write The Only Little Prayer You Need?

The prayer came to me on a day when I was frustrated, stressed, angry ... the kind of day when you feel like everything is crashing in on you and you can't think straight. My husband and I had gone to the body shop to pick up my car, which had been in a minor accident a few weeks before. I discovered that the door didn't shut right, and there were rattles in the dashboard. And because I was already stressed with work and angry at my husband for having the accident in the first place, my mood went downhill from there. And so the prayer showed up. I found myself saying, "Please heal my fear-based thoughts." I said it out of desperation because I was so tired of being in the state I was in. Soon after, I had a significant ah-ha moment in my life, and I was compelled to write about the experience and the prayer.

The prayer is about fear. Why?

Fear is rampant in our lives ... both through the messages we're bombarded with every day, and the fears we create for ourselves. A Course in Miracles teaches that there are just two things: love and fear. We can live from love, or we can live from fear. It's very hard in this world to simply let go of fear because we're reminded of it constantly. That's why the prayer is needed.

Think of all the things we want to eradicate on this planet: hunger, war, poverty, disease, violence. They all come from fear. Healing the fear-based thoughts that contribute to them is the only way to make a real and lasting change.

How is this prayer different?

The reason it's different is because we're trained to focus on what's outside of us. For instance, if we're unhappy in our marriage, we want to fix our spouse. If we could just get our spouse to do what we want and dress like we want and say what we want and remember to take out the garbage, then we'd be happy. So let's say he does all those things...what happens? A whole new list of demands takes its place. We hold each other hostage this way.

The prayer acknowledges that the problem is not outside of us. It's within us. It's in our own fear-based thoughts, which we're projecting onto the marriage and our spouse. These fears may be: I'm not good enough. I'm not lovable. I'm stressed at work and it's got to be someone else's fault.

So we usually ask, please heal my marriage. But as long as you're feeling the same insecurity, guilt, anger and worry, nothing is going to change for very long. It might get better for a day or two, and then the same old fear-based thoughts will show up...that's what happened on the day when the prayer appeared in my mind.

When you use the prayer, you're saying, "Fix me, restore my peace of mind so I can experience my marriage and spouse in a different way." That's why it's so different. It doesn't ask for the world to change to make us happy. It asks for the blocks and barriers that stand in the way of our happiness to be healed so we can experience joy and peace right now, right where we are. That's a whole different kind of prayer, and it means we get to live a whole different kind of life.

Why is it the only prayer we need? That's a big claim.

This prayer can be used for everything, from losing weight to raising kids to being truly joyful no matter what. We seem to have a thousand different problems....money worries, relationship issues, struggles with family or work. But at the root of all of them are fear-based thoughts. That's why this prayer is so exciting and powerful. You simply acknowledge that your frustration and anxiety are rooted in fear-based thoughts, and you ask for those thoughts to be healed so your external circumstances can change. This way you're getting to the real core of the issue.

I've found in teaching A Course in Miracles is that it can be summarized by this message from the Holy Spirit: "Ask me for help." It's the simplest thing to do, and it's the one thing we forget.

Isn't this just positive thinking?