Shhh. Don’t Tell Anyone, I Sometimes Pray

In my head, when I heard or read Step 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous, I always revised it to simply be, ‘sought through meditation to improve my conscious contact with the spirit of life and love’. That was consistent with what I felt like I connected to when meditating, and what I considered my higher power. I did not, would not pray. Praying would have been disingenuous and inconsistent with my identity. However. However, when my oldest daughter was dying over the course of several months, several expressed prayers for her, for our family. I sometimes wanted to say, ‘please don’t’. The whole idea of prayers of petition for her, of ‘thoughts and prayers’, though I knew were sincere and were meant to comfort, were more offensive than comforting.

My sponsor, a kind, gentle, compassionate, former priest, even suggested that I might try prayer. My unspoken thought was, which part of atheist don’t you get. However, looking back at some of the poems I was writing at the time, they clearly were prayers or were a close facsimile. And I know that they were written honestly, organically as I meditated and reflected.

I discovered a set of Buddhist prayers that I began to include in my daily gratitude journals that took the form of expressions of hope, “May Sarah Jane get what she needs today. May Sarah Jane be at peace today. May Sarah Jane be free today”. The gift of those expressions were that I could feel grateful when she mentioned that she had felt good enough to walk to the mailbox or take a shower or eat carry out that day. I used phrases such as these in my daily gratitude for myself and for others. As an alcoholic in recovery, I need to be present and I need to find some degree of hope in a world that often feels painful, hopeless, unfair; and at the same time feels consistent with my reality.

I’m equal parts cynic and idealist. These practices of writing down expressions of hope have done that for me. I still hesitate to call it praying, but I can’t find a better descriptor. I still cringe a little when someone solicits prayers or offers prayers, but yet when I write in my journals and craft these little verses I write each day, some of them look an awful like what my sponsor would call prayers.


I watched you in the distance

Drowning in an ocean of tears

My only hope that you

Weren’t too far out to sea

My prayer that you remember

You know how to swim


I bow to my mother Earth

I remember my mother that gave me birth

I cry for the mothers that wanted to be and never could

And for those that saw their child die and bore their grief

I praise you and cherish you each and everyone


To know who I am (today)

Appreciating how I am

My joys and my sorrows

Accepting a past I would not

Seeing a future I could not

Living without compare

Neither worst nor best

This my simple prayer


Holy Mother*

If you’re there

I don’t know

Who you are

Why I care

This my prayer

Of love and peace

I offer the vast unknown

For if there is holy

It surely is love

Love that gave birth

There in the cradle of life

*undoubtedly after I had been listening to Eric Clapton’s ‘Holy Mother’ recently


I sing to the dawn

A simple song

Of gratitude

For the coming day

About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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Megan F.
Megan F.
2 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing. I also use the “May I be ______” statements when praying (contemplating, setting intentions, quieting the mind). It has been really helpful in finding the peace within.

2 years ago

Anyone w/religious rearing/background has most likely been hard wired to pray so naturally it can come into consciousness. I figure whatever comes into my head at the time I need the most comfort will never be revealed in a flashing sign above my head. I just do my best to let go of any guilt trippin’ either way that tries to sneak into ze little grey cells.

Lech Lesiak
Lech Lesiak
2 years ago

Whenever someone tells me they have a conscious contact with God, I ask them to find out what Microsoft will be trading at on the NYSE in the near future.

2 years ago
Reply to  Lech Lesiak

Perfect! Just remember to pass it on. 😊

Dennis Thompson
Dennis Thompson
2 years ago

All the religions, that I know of, tell people to pray. It seems to work for all of them. My realization was that prayers worked for a different reason than people thought. It has nothing to do with religion, and can be utilized by anyone, and it absolutely does work very well for me. I use it everyday, all throughout the day, whenever I think to do it. It’s an humbling action- the antidote(one of many I use) for ego mania( read addiction) . It allows me to work program between meetings, gives me peace and relaxation, clears my head,… Read more »