An Atheist’s Prayer

My life has seen abundant change in recent months – leaving my old job and starting my internship, moving to a new home in an amazing new city, becoming actively single for the first time in over 25 years. The transitions have been smooth and exciting, perhaps a little too exciting.

I entered the emergency room Monday afternoon with short breath, dizziness, sweat, and extreme worry. They quickly connected me to monitors and tested my heart, blood, and lungs. The next day, I was transferred to a larger hospital for an angiogram.

When I wasn’t worrying, I tried to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Why had I brought that book with me? I picked it up a few days before. While definitely not my normal reading material, I thought that I should get in touch with a book cited by many as inspirational.

Early in the book, the author recounts a conversation with a friend, expressing her desire to petition to God for help with her personal life. However, she believed that asking for specific help from God showed a weakness of faith, or a desire to avoid facing a challenge in life. Her friend politely responded, “Where’d you get that stupid idea?” The friend continued, “You are part of the universe…You’re a constituent – you have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be known. So put your opinion out there. Make your case. Believe me – it will at least be taken into consideration.”

I have led prayer in worship. I have prayed with hospital patients. I have prayed for others in times of struggle. But, I have not prayed for myself since my bedtime prayers of early childhood. It seemed like a good time to try praying for myself. So, I wrote the following.

Power of all. Please help me. I want to come fully in touch with everything that is – all of the forces, fields, energies of existence. I want to help people find meaning in their lives and to encourage them to pursue their goals in life. I have worked hard to get myself into the position to do this for and with as many people as I can. For right now, though, I need help getting through my doubts, loneliness, and fear. I cannot help but worry about whether or not I will accomplish my goals of becoming a minister, a husband again, and a grandfather. I am afraid that my body will prevent me from achieving my goals. Please help me through this crisis so I can do the work I have committed myself to do.

I thought about the people in my life who would join me in this prayer, most of whom did not even know I was in the hospital. I imagined the strength that would come from them to support me in my doubt and fear.

Anyway, I am home again. The diagnosis at this point is great. No apparent physical damage to the heart or lungs; just a slightly under active heart muscle and thyroid, for which the doctors prescribed medication. Reminding oneself periodically of all of the connections in the world is a good practice. Practicing healthy self-care is the best basic prescription to pursuing one’s goals in life. And, reaching out and asking for help when we need it taps us into the web of power and energy that flows between us and among us in the universe.

One thought on “An Atheist’s Prayer

  1. Over the years I’ve learned that the saying, “One cannot love fully until one loves oneself.” is pretty accurate. Of course, getting to that place isn’t easy. Taking care of your own health and loving yourself enough to ask for help when you need it are steps in the right direction.


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