Livin’ on a Wing and a Prayer

Ricky Gervais tweeted, “I’ll pray for you = I want some credit for caring, without actually having to do anything that takes any effort or that actually works.” One thing I like about following him are the reminders to question what I believe and assess whether it still serves me.


I started really praying about 12 years ago when an acquaintance’s 25-year-old son died in a car accident. He had fallen asleep while driving to a new job. He’d had a longer drive that day because he was taking care of his father, who had recently had a heart attack. I’m not sure why, but I told his mother, “You and your family are in my prayers.” I hadn’t been praying at the time, but to make what I said true, I started praying.

When I pray now, I mostly express gratitude. I give thanks:

  • for the wonderful and challenging things that happened that day
  • for healing those who are sick (I picture people I know who are ill and visualize them whole, healthy, and happy)
  • for comfort coming to those who are suffering (especially people who have recently lost a loved one)
  • for being able to embody certain qualities I admire (being authentic, loving, courageous, etc.)

I finish with a Heart Meditation where I think of something that makes me smile, this is usually something silly my children have done recently. Then keeping that image in my mind, I breathe deeply into my solar plexus and say, “Heart Focus,” (take a breath), “Heart Breathing,” (take a breath), “Heart Appreciation.”

I don’t pray to anyone in particular. I believe there’s an energy that flows through all things. I believe that since everything is made of atoms that are simply vibrating at different frequencies, at some level, everything and everyone is connected, and we all influence each other. I understand very little about quantum mechanics or “unified field theory,” but clearly, I’m not the only person who thinks this.

In “Eat, Pray, Love” Elizabeth Gilbert quotes her friend Iva, ‘Where do you get the idea you aren’t allowed to petition the universe with prayer? You are part of this universe, Liz. You’re a constituent – you have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be known.’

Do I really believe that praying for my friend who has cancer will directly shrink her cancer cells? No, but I think by telling her that I’m praying for her, bringing meals to her family, and checking in with her to keep her mood up, she remembers that she’s part of a larger group of people who care a whole lot about her, and her immune system hopefully steps up and helps her respond to the surgery and chemotherapy that do directly kill the cancer cells.

Ricky Gervais got a lot of flak for criticizing celebrities who were tweeting about sending prayers to the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes. He tweeted, “I feel like an idiot now … I only sent money.” I think it’s possible to both pray and to help directly, (by donating money, food, time, etc.) They’re not mutually exclusive. Nor is prayer right for every person. It’s just another tool to bring the possibility of good into our lives.

Please write in the comments whether you think prayer is helpful and/or how else you cope with being unable to help others directly.

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6 thoughts on “Livin’ on a Wing and a Prayer

  1. karla June 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm Reply

    I think the daily prayer keeps you in the habit of caring for the person a little each day even though you may not be able to. Then you are ready when you can.

    • flawson July 3, 2013 at 8:30 am Reply

      That’s a good point. It’s especially hard when someone you want to help lives far away.

  2. Mara Migraineur June 28, 2013 at 10:47 pm Reply

    I think prayer is real and important. I’m not always great at remembering to do it myself, but I do make a point of it if I’ve offered someone prayers. In fact, I believe even the intention – a moment’s pause to reflect on another’s life – has power in it. However, I think a lot of people confuse prayer and praying for someone with positive, immediate resolution. I’d be seriously bummed and also question the validity of prayer if I thought that saying a prayer would save someone from dying, make bad people good, etc. – especially overnight. Prayer isn’t about telling the universe what we want and getting it, in my opinion.

    • flawson July 3, 2013 at 8:32 am Reply

      I love that, “even the intention – a moment’s pause to reflect on another’s life – has power in it.” I’ve heard other people talk about giving other people blessings, wishing them well, even if or especially if they’ve been rude to you. Face it, we can all use a few more blessings each day.

  3. Tiffany June 30, 2013 at 11:38 am Reply

    I have found that there is a power that comes from prayer. The act of praying for me is an acknowledgment of a greater Source, one with limitless power. In that case, I’m going to keep tapping into that Source for assistance of all kinds because I’ve found that when I don’t, I’m less inspired and less connected to my true sense of self. Prayer keeps me on track so that I can effectively take care of my personal business and also find ways to meaningfully serve others.

    • flawson July 3, 2013 at 8:37 am Reply

      Thank you for letting me know how you use prayer. I think I try to tap into that “greater Source” while I’m meditating. I basically sit and breathe and try to relax enough to experience the deepest part of me that’s always calm, loving, and peaceful. I need to write about meditation sometime.

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