Are you spiritual but not religious (SBNR)? Do you ever pray? The fact is the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Just because you classify yourself as SBNR, and are not a member of an organized religion, you can still derive benefits from praying. Prayer represents one more tool in the SBNR toolbox, another way to connect with a higher power, whether you call that power God, the Divine, the Infinite or something else.
Like the other tools available to the SBNR (like meditation, yoga, exercise, contemplation and being with nature) the goal of prayer is to, at least temporarily, get out of your own egocentric head and connect with something greater than yourself. With this connection, you can often more easily find solace, inspiration, guidance and strength, and become better able to cope with whatever issues or opportunities the world sends your way.
The two prayers I’m about to reference are untraditional and won’t be found in the Bible or any prayer book. They’re meant to help us deal with the times we face today, with so much negative news fogging our worldview. The first prayer is meant to pull you out of the world, and help you recognize and appreciate the good things closer to home in your own life. The second is a humble way to recognize that there are problems in the world—and ask for help.
Prayer #1: The Prayer of Gratitude
Also known as the Prayer of Thanks, you might consider silently reciting this prayer each morning to get your day off to the best possible start. There are a few variations of the prayer, but they all go something like this:
Optional: Dear God,
“Thank you for all the good in my life.
I am thankful for (_____________)”
It’s your task to fill in the blank with as many good thoughts as you can muster. Consider your health, your home, your family, your pet, your friends, any object in the room you’re sitting in right now. It can include anything or anyone that brings you (or has brought) you comfort, happiness or pleasant memories.
How important is this prayer? The noted philosopher and mystic Meister Eckhart summed up its essential nature with this thought: If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will be enough.
This prayer doesn’t just benefit us. It also benefits those around us, as the businessman and life philosopher John Templeton points out:
When we express gratitude for the blessings and abundance present in our lives, we become recipients of a spiritual recharge of energy in our minds, bodies, spirits, and all our activities…all those who come in contact with us also receive benefits from our spiritual joy.
When you begin giving thanks each day, you’ll also open up your world to receiving additional blessings. Templeton adds that “the more we are grateful for what we have, the more will be given to us.” This simple prayer invites goodness into our lives, as Templeton explains:
Gratitude can be a powerful magnet that attracts increasing blessings to us—love, joy, opportunity, health, friends, material good. As we appreciate every blessing, life will open up to us in new and wondrous ways.
Prayer #2: The Prayer for the Best Possible Outcome
I don’t have to tell you that we face a lot of issues these days, especially in the United States, from the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic to widespread job loss to oppression and racial injustice. But rather than pray for a specific solution to any of these issues, with this prayer we pray for the best possible outcome.
The fact is we often don’t know the correct solution to our societal issues or if they will help (examples: “shut down all non-essential businesses” or “defund the police”), but we do know we want these problems resolved. That’s where the Prayer for the Best Possible Outcome comes in. It goes something like this:
Optional: Dear God,
“I am deeply troubled by _____________.
Help me/my community/my country find a solution to this problem.”
Again, you fill in the blank, it could be “racism” or “the spread of Covid-19” or “the plight of restaurant workers.” Whatever troubles you, base your prayer around it. Repeat it. Don’t stop at one request.
The Prayer for the Best Possible Outcome can also be used in our personal lives. We do not have crystal balls and cannot see the future. Yet, we often pray for things. We pray that we’ll get a new job or promotion, we pray that we’ll get that new home or maybe that a new relationship will blossom. But what we don’t know is if that thing we pray for will really make our lives better.
Will our new job end up requiring late nights and weekends that costs us precious family time? Will our new home come with issues that we didn’t notice at first glance? Will our new significant other keep us from connecting with the person we really should be with?
When we pray for the best possible outcome, we are not praying for anything specific to happen, only for what is best for us and our lives. This takes the decision-making out of our hands and puts it in the hands of a higher power. Then, if it is meant to happen, and you have taken the steps necessary to make it happen, it will.