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Why are we reluctant to tell people that we pray?


By Niamh Ennis
30th Apr 2022
Why are we reluctant to tell people that we pray?

Why are so many of us reluctant to tell people that we pray? Why do we prefer to keep to ourselves our belief that something bigger, something we can’t explain, might just be guiding and helping us in life?

When I try to answer this, I can’t help but look to the appropriately large amount of negative press that religious institutions have received, in recent years. Their abhorrent treatment to people who trusted them, has as a consequence done untold damage to the reputation of these institutions and have caused so many to retreat from any involvement with them.

My faith had always meant so much to me growing up, and was always a big part of who I was, but now, faced with all this upheaval, I just didn’t know where it fit in or where I belonged anymore. I really struggled for years with this. I wasn’t sure how I was going to reconcile my need for connection with something bigger than myself with all that had happened.As well as the sins of our institutions, many people also associate prayer with being forced by parents or caregivers to go to a religious service, to reem off the words of others that you didn’t understand, which also marked the start of an unhealthy relationship between them and their belief in prayer.

Yet, when you think about it, it’s really not that long ago that meditation was considered to be all too new agey and for hippy dippies. Today, it is an accepted and medically proven practice that we can all benefit from. Deepak Chopra refers to this so beautifully in the words, ‘prayer is for asking the questions and meditation is about listening for the answers’.

My childhood is filled with the most gorgeous memories of being inspired by my dad to create a May altar and his devotion to Our Lady was something special that we shared together. As a result, I’ve never missed a year of creating my own May altar and so as I prepare for this year’s creation, I’ve been thinking about why we hide this important part of us.

Being religious and being spiritual are two very different things. Just know that you do not need to be religious to pray. When I realised that my faith did not require an institution in order to continue to live inside me, it was only then that I started to feel more liberated. I began to observe that in my developing a stronger and more connected relationship with something much bigger than me, it gave me the permission to cement a better relationship with myself.

I have very vivid memories of me, as a child, sitting in my bed, saying my prayers each night. Not the traditional Hail Marys or Our Fathers, but engaging in long lively conversations with whoever was listening. I would start these prayers with these very words ‘Hello to whoever is listening…’ and I think in my lovely naivete, I imagined it to be like a call centre and that someone different could be listening to me every time. I would always give them the backstory to my prayer, what exactly it was I wanted and lots of detail about how I believed that they could help. I always believed that they had limitless potential and that nothing was beyond them so I never held back in my prayers.

Looking back now, I see that I was much better able to ask them for help than I ever was to ask anyone in my life. When we pray, we simply hand over the desired outcome to something bigger than ourselves. We never feel like we are dumping on someone else or that we are looking for too much. I never shied from asking no matter how weak or helpless it made me look. That was my first example of the benefits of being vulnerable, I just didn’t recognise it.

I was able to pray because I always felt heard. Not because every prayer was answered; but because every prayer always felt listened to. That’s the thing about prayer, we must accept that just because a prayer doesn’t get answered immediately, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t ask properly. The “faith” piece means that we must learn how to trust the timing and the outcome of the prayer itself. Which isn’t all that easy; if we pray for something, it’s because we want it now, so it definitely tests us when we are required to accept that the outcome we get, may not be the one we want, but it will always be the one we need!

Prayer is the conversation you have with whoever or whatever you believe in. It can be God, spirit, energy, source, light, nature, mother earth, angels, spirit guides or trees. You can pray to any or all of these.

When I went through my own close experiences with grief, unsurprisingly, there were a lot of conversations, between me and my maker, as to “why me?”. I couldn’t get my head around the fact, that not only had I been dealt one blow in my life, but they just kept coming. One blow after another. I honestly don’t think I felt that my faith was being tested, but our conversations definitely got more intense and a lot more colourful. I was not one bit happy about all that had happened to me and that became my prayer.

The chances are that everyone reading this prays regularly and often. You just don’t call it prayer: you don’t recognise it as prayer; but that’s what it is. There are three types of prayer: gratitude, praise and the most common one – request, when we need help and we ask for something in return.

So, if you’re struggling with your own beliefs right now, reframe your thinking that religion and spirituality are the same, or that prayer needs to be formulaic. Don’t overthink it; prayer is simply a conversation you have with that energy you believe is guiding you and minding you. And remember we were never supposed to do this business of life alone and prayer is just another way of ensuring we get that little bit of extra help we need along the way.

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and Author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self-Study Online Programme for those looking to make Changes. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash.