The Praying Habit: Final Week

After four weeks of experiencing other faith traditions’ prayer texts and rituals, switching back to praying however I wanted was an unexpectedly dramatic shift. While I didn’t struggle as much as I did my first week of Lent, I was far from perfect. For one, I was indecisive about which tradition to attempt each day. I focused my energies on Mormon and Quaker prayer.

I did not make it to a Quaker meeting (I know, I need to, but I promise I will soon, and I’ll tweet my reactions after I go!) I still didn’t manage to develop the “sense of wonder and awe of the finite before the infinite lead[ing] naturally to thanksgiving and adoration” that one Quaker thinker described. I’d say the closest I got to experiencing wonder was listening to the music at the Good Friday mass I attended, but even that was far from the most awestruck I’ve been. The best I could do was occasionally remember to take a minute and appreciate the natural resources, technology and people that I’m surrounded with.

Mormon prayer was even trickier once I was out of the habit. I attempted praying to Heavenly Mother twice, but did so in such a state of exhaustion that the prayers weren’t nearly as thoughtful and sincere as they were during the week I dedicated myself to exploring the tradition. I didn’t pray in the morning at all (not a huge surprise, as it was something I struggled with during Mormon week), and saying the prayers out loud didn’t seem to have the same effect that it did before.

Strangely enough, I didn’t spent many days praying in my typical style. More often than not I ended up crossing myself before praying, like I did during Catholic week. I think I did this is because my Catholic prayers are similar to how I normally, but involves a physical movement, which as I’ve previously discussed, helps me focus on praying rather than drifting off to sleep.

There was another obstacle that I didn’t consider when initially planning this Lent commitment. My long distance boyfriend was in town for the majority of the last portion of this exercise. I’d dealt with this when I visited him during week one and Jewish week, but both of those trips were for extended weekends, while this time he stayed with me for eleven days. I am of the school of pre-bedtime praying and am quite private about the spiritual practices I engage in (this blog series being the one exception), which put a damper on the length and intensity of some of my prayers. I missed praying several nights because I drifted off in the middle of a nighttime chat or snuggle session.

This got me thinking about whether it’s important to have a partner who prays with you. On one hand, I believe it’s worthwhile to be with someone who also values the practice. You could hold each other accountable for setting aside time to pray, potentially together. On the other hand, religion and spirituality is intensely personal, so it might not be something you’d want to share with a partner. At the moment I’m in the latter camp. My atheist boyfriend doesn’t share my beliefs about God, but has been supportive of this project and didn’t bat an eye when I had to step away before dinner to daven. Given that my exact beliefs are still being worked out (will they ever not be?), I think my praying alone was, at least for this time in my life, an asset.

While there were challenges and outright frustrations that came with this discipline, I’m thankful I opted to make a good faith attempt at spiritual growth this Lent. This exercise seems to have jump started the more introspective portion of my faith cycle, which is something I’ve missed. Whether I’m able to maintain it remains to be seen. Pray for me?

Carolyn Browender is an activist and seeker living in Washington, D.C. She was raised Lutheran by a practicing Christian mother and secular Jewish father. You can also find her on Twitter.