Afraid to say pray? Spirituality, religion and a happy life

By David Joel Miller.

The role of Prayer, spirituality, and religion in creating a happy life.

Higher PowerI have held off on discussing this topic as long as I can. It is with great trepidation that I even put the keywords, prayer, religion and spirituality into my blog.

But there is a connection between what you believe and your ability to have a happy life. We find that people who have a spiritual belief are more able to create the changes needed to improve their life. Having friends is helpful and having somebody with a whole lot of pull in the universe would be even better.

Nothing has been so effective in human history at dividing us up into in and out groups and becoming an excuse for a war or general mayhem, then what we call our particular spiritual belief. If you have a particular aversion to Religion in general, please read on, I believe that for you, recovery is possible also and you don’t need to sign on for my particular religious belief system in order to have a happy life.

I, like so many others, have from time to time referred to myself as a recovering —— (fill in name of several religions here.) I came from a region where at one time the “Regular” Baptists and the “Separate” Baptists used to get guns and shoot at each other. It was the 60’s, the 1860’s. But the idea is still in play.

Further north and a little east of there some of my ancestors tried to kill each other and then had to flee because somewhere Catholic and others were Protestants. Descendants of these faiths and a whole lot of others end up marrying each other and I am one of those results. I find it increasingly difficult, no impossible, to take sides in all these sectarian disputes.

So what does that have to do with recovery?

The hard part for many people in recovery, recovery from any and all of life’s problems, has been to separate those old religious rituals and dogmas from reconnecting with some sort of deeply felt beliefs.

Prayer is one of those useful beliefs.

Now it would appear that there are a whole lot of different understandings of who we pray to and what prayer is, but the results tell me that those that pray have better and happier lives.

Twelve step groups in their early days had to come up with a solution to this God and belief problem. They use the term “God as you understand him” So that includes all the various denominations as well as the various other names by which people may call their “higher power.”

I will try to avoid those old sectarian disputes, though at this point I suspect I have already wandered into the minefield and shortly my comments and inbox will fill with comments from people saying “If you don’t pray the way we do at the First Church of —- then God hates you and you are going to —.”

Prayer is too important to our recovery from unhappiness and a whole lot of other issues to be left out of the equation.

Wholly sectarian philosophies often incorporate practices that look and sound suspiciously like prayer. Creative visualization, meditation, the law of attraction, all these things try to put us in touch with something greater than ourselves. So does “wish-craft” and psyching yourself up to create better performance.

As we take this journey towards our happy life, whatever you may define that as being, we will need to talk about the role of faith, belief, prayer and meditation. I don’t expect to write anything that intentionally offends anyone and I do believe that what I say will not contradict anyone’s current religious practice.

I have not studied religion in any professional capacity and don’t presume to tell anyone what they “should” believe. What I do know based on my training in counseling and psychotherapy is that believing in something is helpful in creating a positive, mentally healthy life.

This raises a bunch of questions we need to consider.

Does God, your higher power, the forces of the universe or whomever, hear and answer your prayers? Even if it is your own subconscious that hears and responds, what might be the advantages of giving some prayer a try?

Why do some people say they get answers to their prayers and others say they don’t? What improves the chances that you will get an answer? How many different ways could your prayer be answered?

What is all this meditation stuff and why do people talk about “prayer and meditation?” Don’t you do one or the other?

This material on prayer, meditation, and spirituality will get sprinkled throughout the year so as to avoid giving anyone spiritual indigestion.

From personal experience, I have concluded that my Higher Power (as I understand them) has not one or two ways to answer my prayers. I am quite convinced that I have received at least four different answers to my requests. Your answers to prayer may vary from that number depending on your actual situation. I have also learned that I was not very skilled at praying. I have needed to change the technique I use.

Let me tell you in a future post about those four different answers you may receive and why we may all be amateur prayers.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


3 thoughts on “Afraid to say pray? Spirituality, religion and a happy life

  1. Dearest David,
    I have always wanted to believe there was something looking out for me or guiding me in the right direction. But at the end of the day I always find a reason for it to not be so! To believe….really believe in something higher than ourselves is not easy for some of us. I appreciate your take on it and as always I’ve enjoyed reading your insights! Night from Oz
    Hugs Paula xxx


  2. Pingback: Help Wanted – A GOD — | counselorssoapbox

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