A Morning Prayer for Non-Believers

I was reading about prayer. I don’t remember where. A chapter of some book. Maybe Sapiens. Virtually every religion and creed since the dawn of man, the book avowed, has practiced praying.

That may be true, but I wondered how many people actually pray. Polls of Americans project that about 55% pray every day and another 20% pray weekly. About 20% never pray.

And why do people pray?

According to Wikipedia, the big three are:

  • To ask for things
  • To give thanks
  • To commune with the divine

I’d add two more: Prayer can remind you of what you believe and/or value.  And it can remind you of how you want to live your life.

I used to pray. As a young child. But in fifth or sixth grade, I stopped believing in a god. It didn’t seem credible. So when I gave up god, I gave up praying.

Or did I?

Isn’t meditation a secular form of communing with the divine?

And each morning when I journal “three things I’m grateful for,” isn’t that a kind of praying?

And what about spontaneous victory dances? Shouting at the sky?

No, you don’t have to be religious to pray. Nor even to believe that praying can be beneficial.

I woke up last week thinking that I should add prayer to my ritual. Perhaps a morning prayer to remind me of what I value and to prompt me to behave in a manner that supports those values. I spent an hour looking at morning prayers from dozens of religions. None struck a chord. So I decided to write one myself.

My first draft was a bit messy. So I rewrote it, cutting out a few words every day. Here it is as it stands:

My life is a gift I didn’t earn and cannot claim a right to. I am amazed by and grateful for it.

It is a temporary gift that I will one day give up, but it is also a flexible one, whose dimensions can be deepened and broadened by the conscious experience of its moments.

  • Some of those moments will be new. Those I will welcome.
  • Some will disappoint. Those I will ignore.
  • Some will be hurtful. Those I will forgive.
  • Some will be threatening. Those I will respect.
  • Most will be ordinary and invisible. Those I will see.
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Lenitive (adjective or noun) – Something that is lenitive (LEN-ih-tiv) softens, soothes, or mitigates; alleviates pain or harshness. As used by Laurence Sterne: “There is one sweet lenitive at least for evils, which nature holds out; so I took it kindly at her hands, and fell asleep.”

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There are physical ways to pray. Some Native Americans dance. Some Sufis whirl. Christians fold their hands and bow their heads. Jews sway and bow. Muslims kneel and prostrate themselves. Quakers keep silent.

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5 Easy Theses is the promising title of a serious book by a man (James M. Stone) who has academic, government, and business credentials. But it was too dense and difficult to read. I gave up after the first thesis and skimmed the rest.

Stone’s idea for the book, though, is good: sensible ways to solve five big problems – the budget deficit (and federal debt), inequality, education, health care, and financial sector reform.

His solution for the budget deficit (the one I read) is to somehow force Congress not to enact projects or programs they can’t fund, to cease unnecessary tax deductions for big businesses (the gas industry, the farming industry, etc.), to get the Social Security Administration to stop expanding its coverage as the average mortality increases, and to repeal all corporate and personal deductions for taxes on debt.

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Look at This: Pace and timing are two critical components of comedy. If this were 15 seconds longer, it might not have worked, but it does… or did… for me.

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