One of my most popular columns over the past few years is “3 Daily Prayers for the Spiritual but not Religious.” It appears most people are stumbling upon the story using Google search—which would seem to indicate there’s a yearning for non-traditional prayers, the kind you don’t hear in church.
For me, prayer represents another tool in the spiritual toolbox. While there’s something to be said for the inner calm that can be achieved through meditation, prayer can help us connect with something greater than ourselves. The Reverend Donna Schaper says that “prayer satisfies a deep yearning that comes from within our souls.” The prayers that follow, untraditional as they may be, can help do just that.
Below you’ll find some background on each SBNR prayer, with the actual prayer appearing in bold italics. While I use <God> at the beginning of each prayer, you’ll note that I have variable brackets around the word. Use whatever name here that you are most comfortable with, be it Father, Mother, Divine Spirit, Universal Life Force—or skip the naming process altogether. Also, feel free to edit each prayer using language that works best for you—the prayers themselves are meant to be directional in nature.
Prayer #1. The Prayer for the Best Possible Outcome
This is a prayer that might also be called the Prayer for Nothing. Here’s the thinking behind it: We do not have crystal balls and cannot see the future. Yet, we often pray for things or specific outcomes. We pray that we’ll get that 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 really know is if that thing we pray for will make our lives better.
Will the new job end up requiring late nights and weekends and cost you precious family time? Will the new home come with issues that you didn’t notice at first glance? Will the new relationship keep you from connecting with the person you were mean to be with?
The alternative: Pray for the best possible outcome. That means not praying for anything specific to happen, only for what is best for you and your life. This takes the decision making out of your hands and gives it to what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “the higher power that regulates events.” The prayer goes like this:
<God>, I do not know what is best, and you know all too well I have not always made the best decisions. But I trust that you know what is best for me. I pray that you will steer me, through cues and signs and my own intuition, to the best possible decision, and outcome, for myself and those around me. Amen.
Prayer #2. The Prayer for What You Already Have
The idea for this prayer comes from an unusual place—an old Behavior Gap column from the financial planner Carl Richards. It’s based around the notion that we have too little awareness about all the good that is in our lives at this very moment. Richards advises us that “instead of expecting more, we try to show appreciation for what we already have.”
Richards recommends that you find one thing to be grateful for each day.“It doesn’t have to be gratitude for a big, life-changing event. Look for the little things.” He has found that if you take a moment to appreciate something as simple as your cat, the sun shining through the window, the comforts of your home, “life will look a little brighter” and “it becomes more difficult to think you need more.”
The prayer goes like this:
<God>, I thank you for all the good in my life right now. While I sometimes seek more, I want you to know how much I appreciate what I already have. I am blessed with more riches than I deserve. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul. Amen.
Prayer #3. The Prayer for Your Spouse (or Partner)
In a 2017 column in the Washington Post, Thomas Burnett wrote about how prayer has the power to affect “our most intimate relationships.” It’s a conclusion that comes from a study out of Florida State University that looked at petitionary prayer—a prayer where you request something, but in this case, something for your spouse or partner.
The study found that praying daily for your significant other was linked to numerous positive outcomes, including: “increased relationship satisfaction, greater trust, cooperation, forgiveness and marital commitment.” It also seemed to help both the person who was doing the praying and the partner who was being prayed for.
How does prayer improve relationships? According to Burnett, “setting aside the possibility of divine intervention, research suggests that partner-focused prayer increases selfless love towards one’s partner. It could also help reorient a couple toward long-term shared goals, and away from short-term, adversarial behavior focused on “winning” conflicts.”
Here’s a prayer like the one used daily by the study participants:
<God>, thank you for all the things that are going well in my life and in my relationship. Please continue to protect and guide my partner, each day. Please bring good things to him or her and make me a blessing in their life. Amen.