2 Prayers for The World

The last time I prayed had been 7 years ago.

I was standing, kneeling actually, on the roof of my college dorm room. I was slightly drunk. There had been a party I had gone to, where I am sure many a college frat boy had hooked up with a college girl. At the time, I was not interested in sleeping with any girl, for obvious reasons. It was only months before that I had realized that I was gay.

So that night, after that party, I stumbled onto the roof, and looked to the starry sky. The wind was cold on my cheek. At the time, no one knew who I really was but me, and because of my isolation, I thought I was going to be rejected by the world.

If I, the 25-year-old me, was to go back to that boy who had just turned 18, I would have told him to wait. To hold on. That it would get better for him. I would have told my 18-year-old self that in a year he would receive the love and acceptance of various friends including his sister, and within four years he would have the love and acceptance of his entire immediate family. I would have told him that if he waited, in 7 years he would have had the love and acceptance of his entire extended family as well.

I would have told him that he was going to fall in love more than once.

I would have told my younger self that, after he graduated from college, he would have traveled to Tokyo and Kyoto, and that there he would encounter a culture and a country he would immediately fall in love with. Where ancient beauty and light-speed modernity met in a clash of blinding light and floating incense, car honks and the sonorous prayers of Buddhist monks. By The Duck Lake in Kyoto, he would have looked into his friends eyes and saw in this friend the same fear he had only years ago. The fear of being different from everyone else in society.

But at 18, at the top of my college dorm room, I had no idea all of that would happen. I just knew that I was gay, and that it wasn’t crazy to think that people might hate me for it. So I did what anyone would have done in a time when the world they knew and the person they thought they were had drastically changed. I prayed.

You see, at that moment I had to two choices: either reject this new truth that had surfaced, or embrace the fact that my life was no longer going to be the same–that I would have to withstand challenges that not many people had to face, and that I would have to go through a process that was not only unfair, but exhausting:  the process of reintroducing myself to the world. Between these two choices, denial and acceptance, I chose the latter.

This position was jarring to say the least, and I’m sure there should be countless of volumes of essays on the subject, so that straight people (and gay people in the future) can understand just what it’s like to have your whole world toppled upside down. Not because of an external decision that was made, but because a new awareness, that had been repressed for so long, had surfaced. One could say that there is certain insanity to it at first. A slight disorientation. Like you’ve been thrown off a moving bus, and now you’re in a place that no longer looks like home, and you don’t know if the people are as nice as they were where you used to live.

It was scary, and in that moment, on the rooftop of my dorm room, in the middle of the night, as the music of the row houses swung with a heavy bass, and the drunk students shouted and laughed down the hallways, and streets, and the fluorescent lights on the roof flickered, I looked to the sky.

Until then I had been a very strong, devoted catholic. But at that moment all that I had believed in was pulled out from under me, and the solid ground I had stood on for so long had evaporated into a cool air. Because if my religion hated gay men {I thought at the time} then I certainly could not be catholic. But my faith had been very intertwined to my identity up until my moment, and so I had only learned to deal with such an intense situation by praying about it.

So, it was with great irony–not really knowing whether He was on “my side” or not–that I prayed to God, and asked him why? Why would he make me what others hated so much? I asked above all else for his help. I pleaded for his assistance. But in that moment, none came. And I was convinced that none would ever come. I heard no voice. I saw no signs.

I lost my faith in God that day.

For years, I flew to the other end of the spectrum. I became what Richard Dawkins would call a “Militant Atheist.” I attacked religion, like it was a virus. I looked down on those who prayed. I rolled my eyes behind their back. I felt this sense of superiority (that I later found distasteful) in denouncing their beliefs as frivolous. Today, I realize how ironic this transition was. I left religion so that I would not be a part of an organization that I believed was stigmatizing and looking down on people who were different, and here I was doing the exact same thing! But this time it was for the “other side.”

It was not long before my atheism dissolved, and became agnosticism, then buddhism, then spirituality, and now I have arrived at a place that I am just going to call: simply being. Which might seem cryptic to people who might think that in writing this post I am taking a stance on religion or on no religion. I am not doing either. I know that there are many religious people who love and accept the gay community, just as there are many atheists who don’t look down on people who are spiritual, and only respectfully disagree. I have great respect for those who are spiritual and those who are not spiritual. I wish no ill will to anyone. I am only sharing my personal experience and I am simply stating my truth, which is this:

That in all my transitions from Catholicism, to atheism, to agnosticism, to buddhism, to spirituality, there was one thing that I left, that I have returned to with a deeper force, and that is prayer.

Prayer was a tool I used last year to get me through the first draft of my novel. When all tools failed me, I had simply to see my string of words like the beads on a rosary, and as my finger touched upon each word, I breathed a life into them, hoping someday, somewhere, my words would mean something, and not just fall through the cracks.

I believe that when we look at prayer outside of both a religious and non-religous context, we can see it more clearly for what it is. It is not a plea. It is not a cry. Not exactly. It is a request.

And that is why prayer isn’t a waste of time, nor is it a sign of weakness, or a “fuzzy thing” that people use as a crutch. (By the way, when did crutches get a bad name? People with broken legs would tell you they are very useful.)

A prayer is powerful. Because when the worst of tragedies hit, and we do not know what to do because the situation seems so out of our control, we know that even in this state of powerlessness we can still make a request.

We can ask for something. We can make our statement heard. We can tell the “what” that is out there–whether it is god or the unknown–what we feel and what we want.

This action, though seemingly innocent and ineffectual, is in fact very powerful.

Even if we cannot act on our will, by praying, we can assert it, and this brings peace to us and the world around us, no matter the chaos. This is prayer, and it is a tool for life and for writing.

It should not be underestimated.

Last year, I started to pray once more after 7 years of having not asserted my will. And these past two weeks, I prayed again.

My friend and his family are safe in Japan, but I know not all families were so fortunate.

For that we do not despair. We pray.

much love,

Ollin

2 Prayers for The World

 

  • Asserting Your Will

Begin by asking god, jesus, buddha, the universe, the source, or whatever you believe in what it is that you need:

“God give me strength, give me confidence, give me love, give me compassion, give me clarity…”

Or, if you do not believe in god, just speak to the vast unknown and assert your will:

“Give me strength, give me confidence, give me love, give me compassion, give me clarity…”

Secondly, repeat what you need, but then replace “me” with the members of your family:

“God give my mother strength, give my father love, give my sister compassion, give my brother clarity…”

Or remove god from the above statement if you are an atheist, and simply assert the statement to the unknown.

Thirdly repeat what you need, but then replace “me” with your country:

“God give this country strength, give this country love, give this country compassion, give this country clarity…”

For atheists, remove god, and simply assert this statement to the unknown.

Finally, repeat what you need, but then replace “me” with the world:

“God give the world strength, give the world love, give the world compassion, give the world clarity…”

For atheists, remove god, and simply assert these statements to the unknown.

“Give the world strength, give the world love, give the world compassion, give the world clarity…”

At last, realize that what you need is what the world needs. In asserting your will, you assert the will of the world.

 

  • Asking for The Support You Need

Begin by asking god, jesus, buddha, the universe, the source whatever you believe in, what support you need:

“God give me financial support, give me emotional support, give me physical support, give me psychological support…”

If you are an atheist or agnostic, replace the above “God” with the unknown.

Repeat this prayer for yourself, then for your family, then for your country, and finally, for the world.

At last, realize that the support that you need is the support that the world needs. When you ask for support for yourself, you are asking for support for the world.

What tools do you suggest for dealing with global tragedies that might make you feel powerless or unable to offer help?

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41 comments on “2 Prayers for The World

  1. I hope your friends and family are safe as well. I’ll send some prayers your way. =)

  2. Ollin, your religious path, sounds a LOT like mine. I too became the militant atheist. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I pray but I do understand the power of it. I am probably closer to a pagan than any other so called “belief”

    I am so glad that lost young man of 18 found his way. Really am because look at you now🙂

    As pagans say, Blessed Be Ollin…

  3. Wonderful, wonderful post. I’m 25 and recently converted to Catholicism before marrying my husband last year. Before that, I had researched Buddhism quite a bit, had my cards read often, visited mediums who spoke to my angel guides, etc. Becoming Catholic challenges certain beliefs that I still hold (which, I suppose by definition, would make me less Catholic, right?). The best thing I’ve gotten out of regularly going to church and taking the classes to convert was a better understanding of prayer. Before I started praying regularly, or really KNEW how to pray, I was a ball of anxiety and stress over the littlest things. Now I know I can turn inward and project my concerns to the universe and God and in that I find a lot of peace.

    For me, prayer is more important than “being” a certain religion. It’s a form of meditation. I may not believe everything the church teaches, but I know I’m being heard when I rattle off my prayers and worries.

    Thank you for sharing this post with us!

    • Ollin says:

      I can see that. I think when we get stuck into definitions of things we lose the point of it all. But I always saw meditation as being present to the world around you, and prayer as making a request to the unknown or to god. But in the end, it doesn’t matter how you define it or what you call it, the important part is that it DOES give you peace. And in this world of chaos, that is what we need.

  4. A good read, Ollin, a very open and honest post. I had spent 26 years of my life without any religion, before, very unexpectedly, being drawn into a Christian church. I have been praying every day since then. To me, praying isn’t just about asking, but also about being thankful (a very powerful emotion). I always start by recalling everything I’m thankful for: this day, life, love, health, food, nature, finances etc. Only after that, I ask, and am conscious of asking for family, friends and the world besides just for myself.

    By praying, I realize how small, vulnerable and humble we are, but also that we can make a difference. Instead of asking “please give me strength”, for example, try “please tell me how I can gain strength”, “please tell me what I should do today to strengthen myself and others”. There probably won’t be a deep male voice rolling down from the skies, but keep an eye out for all the little sign posts along the route that give you hints on which way to go.

    • Ollin says:

      That’s a great idea.

      For me, it has been a struggle being ok with asserting my will, and that’s why at this point, my prayers are about asserting my intention. What it is I want, because sometimes I can forget exactly what it is I need, and what I don’t need, and if I don’t assert it then I’m not clear about it.

      What I enjoy about this method is that I am not waiting for signs or for a response, sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you are not sure whether something is a sign or not. For me at least, it is very stressful “waiting” for something out there to intervene.

      I feel more comfortable and at peace to just assert myself, because it is within my power to do so. Wether god follows through, or others follow through is their business and I don’t bother myself about that.

      • I guess it’s not so much about waiting, as it is about conscious acting. Just try to take small steps towards what you want every day and keep your ears and eyes open. It’s true, you can’t tell whether something is a sign or if it’s just in your head, and maybe there won’t be any clear signs but just a general feeling you have that you are on the right track. Such a feeling can be enough to push me forward. In any case, I totally agree with you that prayer is a beautiful and powerful tool that we can all use!

  5. Your posts are always so powerfully written, Ollin. I can’t say how much I respect you and your writing. There aren’t many blogs (yours and Mckenzie’s, mostly) that can make me all teary-eyed.

    BUT, to answer your question, I spent a lot of time looking down on prayer and religion in general. It all seemed really asinine to me. I converted to Paganism when I was 19 for a variety of reasons, some I’ve made public on my blog and others that remain private. Now, I don’t think I can get through a week without making some sort of plea to the Gods, for myself or others. It may not be much, but it’s something.

    When it comes to global tragedies and natural disasters, I try to fund raise, and if I can’t contribute, I direct as many people as I can to great causes. (Usually in the form of Facebook spam.)

    So. That’s that. =]

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you Katie,

      That means a lot to me! Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t tone it down a bit. But I try to think: “well, Ollin, you’re not on this earth very long. Better make every thing you do count for something.”

      So I’ll just keep at it.

  6. Christina says:

    Beautiful post Ollin!

    I think it’s important to acknowledge the difference between religion and faith.

    Religion is doctrinal, with which one can disagree/contest/agree/support.

    Faith goes beyond that. Faith is about God (or the universe, depending on what you choose to believe in) in relation to you. Without all the other types of interpretation. Faith is God/a higher power in its purest form.

    It’s faith that pulls you through, and faith in yourself that helps you achieve your goals.

    Having faith in a higher power gives you faith in yourself. Because with faith you’re not alone.

    • Ollin says:

      Very interesting perspective, Christina!

      I guess I really wasn’t trying to make a statement about religion or faith, so much as sharing the idea that prayer is a very useful tool in and of itself. That asserting our will is a very powerful act.

      The truth is, I think we all have our definitions of what religion and faith is, and I’ve learned enough to know that all viewpoints are valid. There is no wrong way to look at it. I think as long as you have love and compassion in your heart, and you are trying your best, your’e awesome in my book!

  7. T.S. Bazelli says:

    As always, your honesty is inspiring Ollin. Prayer is an active thing. Even if people don’t believe in a God that listens to those prayers, I believe prayer can changes things inside of us. It’s helped me get through many difficult times.

    • Ollin says:

      Thanks T.S. I guess that’s who this post is written for. For those people who’ve exhausted every tool or recourse, and need to find something that works. I could have left this out, but then that would mean I would be hiding an essential part of who I am, and I think an essential part of the life of humans. Humans have always prayed and we continue to pray, because it works. It truly works. And I just wanted to share that.

  8. Marna says:

    Thank you for sharing something so beautiful and true. If we could all just respect ourselves and each other while we each try to find our own way, I think the world would be a happier place.

    • Ollin says:

      Agree, Marna, agreed. One of the most important things I’ve learned through that journey I described above is that everyone’s point is valid and should be respected. Often, sometimes, we are only in transition with our beliefs and we need time to grow. It’s a process, just like writing is, and we need to respect that.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story. Sending love and acceptance from the East coast.

  10. […] 2 Prayers for The World Published: March 25, 2011 Source: {Courage 2 Create} » Accidental Death of A Timely Artist The last time I prayed had been 7 years ago. I was standing, kneeling actually, on the roof of my college dorm room. I was slightly drunk. There had been a party I had gone to, where I am sure many a college f… […]

  11. Samantha Bangayan says:

    I was inspired by your spiritual journey, Ollin! It’s a reminder that we may not always have clear answers and beliefs don’t always have a clear definition, but it doesn’t mean that we’re any less whole as a person.

    After reading your post, I’m re-convinced of the power of prayer — something I had forgotten from years past when I was actively involved in the Christian church. Reading your description made me think that maybe I do still pray, in the form of writing. In a way, I feel I can concretize my will with words on paper and this brings me peace. =)

    • Ollin says:

      I’m glad you say it that way. Thank you for elaborating my point of view on things. I completely agree. Beliefs don’t have to be clear, in fact, they are in constant flux aren’t they? I’m glad your writing is a form of prayer for you and brings you peace!

  12. Julie says:

    Amazing and courageous post. I envy you such wisdom at the age of 25. It took me until my mid-thirties to reconcile some of the things you’ve already worked through.

    Without going through my entire spiritual evolution, I will say that I came to a place where I found I did not know how to pray anymore. One book that helped a great deal was Illuminata, by Marianne Williamson. She provides prayers for many of life’s situations, and from there, I was able to develop my own, or to at least feel less self-conscious forming them in my mind.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Ollin says:

      I love Marianne Williamson. I haven’t actually read any of her books, but she has this great quote that my readers shared with me long ago, that I just fell in love with. About this idea that we area afraid that we are very powerful and that holds us back? I’m sure you know it.

      I’ll have to look into it. I’m learning that the prayers we create for ourselves are sometimes the most powerful. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  13. Amy Buchheit says:

    This is a GREAT post, Ollin. I love how personal it is. How much searching you have done. How you have shared the tough times, the good times, and your arrogant humanity. Your HUMANITY. Because no matter who we are, what we do or what we think … we are all connected in in that we are all human. Bless you for revealing part of your journey to get to that place of understanding.

    In answer to your question … even when things like what have happened in Japan are big, frightening and could be overwhelming (if I allow it to be) … my response is the same. Look for ways I can take action. I haven’t always been that way … I sometimes sat back wondering what I could do, shaking my head at the state of the world, things that are happening. But now, I either DO something (take action) or, I do not … yet don’t allow myself to feel small and powerless.

    More often than not, where something strikes me as needing action, I take action … even if it is some small thing, like signing a petition. Any action is better than inaction. Being one person, I do need to “choose my battles” … it is physically impossible to take action on everything. For those things that I choose not to take an action on, no matter how worthy … I simply allow that choice to be o.k. exactly the way it is, and exactly the way it isn’t. I don’t make myself wrong. Nor, do I make myself right (or righteous) about the things I DO take action on. I do it because it is right. I do it because it is who I am.

    I am really glad that your friend in Japan and his family are safe and sound. I stand in a commitment, I pray, I send thoughts to the universe that all others will be cared for in their time of need. Oh yes … and I am donating 50-100% of the sale of my art this month to the relief effort. (That would be the taking action part).

    Best regards,

    Amy

  14. A very thoughtful and honest post, Ollin. I’m so glad that you’ve found peace and acceptance in your life. Experience is a wonderful guide.

  15. Melissa T. says:

    Thank you for once again teaching us blog followers through your own life experiences! This post was uplifting and I couldn’t have needed it more. It’s comforting to hear that good people can go through difficult or stressful situations and still remain good people who are true to themselves. Praying is also one of the most peaceful experiences for me.

    Thank you😀

    • Ollin says:

      You’re Welcome Melissa. I think it doesn’t matter how you pray, I think as long as it gives you that peace in the end.

  16. 83October says:

    I think we had a similar journey in terms of religion. I went from Catholic, to atheist, to agnostic, to Buddhist, then to spirituality as well and i struggle with prayer. I associate prayer to Catholicism…and having said goodbye to that i couldn’t find it in me to clasp my hands and simply speak to the universe. But i also realize that in my most difficult moments i do speak to the universe and beg from it some sort of assurance that i can endure. I am glad you decided to post something on this matter. Somehow it has made me think about prayer and hopefully find my way back to that.🙂

    Aside from prayer (and maybe this is some sort of prayer as well) i offer silence. I read news about Japan and i could only pause, close my eyes and observe a few minutes of silence. I try to donate in charities/institutions that are geared towards helping the victims of the tragedy.

    • Ollin says:

      Wow, we had the EXACT same journey. Hehe. Well, that’s what I was trying to get at I think. That praying may just be a part of our biological make-up as human beings. I think I still prayed as an atheist, but like you, at the time, I did not want to call it prayer. But I don’t think anyone owns prayer.

      Prayer belongs to each of us, and it is a private thing in a way. An individual way of communicating with the unknown, or everything we don’t understand, our way of making sense of all the chaos, or what we see as chaos. I guess I just wanted to say that it is a tool, and that I’ve found it helpful.

  17. “{By the way, when did crutches get a bad name? People with broken legs would tell you they are very useful.}” <———totally true! great point!

    This whole post is a good read. "Japan" and other natural disasters have effected me more than almost any other experience (or idea of an experience!) ever (parenting is the only thing that has had a greater effect in me.) I still have not regained my words since the shock of the tsunami and all. How do I deal with it? Definitely prayer.🙂 I'm having to trust God in a way I never have before. I want to be there in Japan right now helping everyone. I believe I can't, though, because my family needs me (my kids are very young) and I don't want to sacrifice them for others. Does that makes sense? So… my heart has been guided (through prayer and meditative Bible reading) to believe that God has this in hand. He is encouraging others to help. He is comforting those who need it. He is listening to the prayers of the homeless, the parent-less, the child-less.😦 Now I pray every day for Him to lift the spirits of all those who are repairing their lives and their country. It gives me great peace to know that as He is here with me in hard times (trust me, I've had them!) He is also near those dear people in Japan. NOW. He's involved in every life.

    Thanks for this post, Ollin and I'm sorry my response was so long. Get blogging, Genevieve! Geez, stop spending all your words on other people's blogs! lol😀

    -Genevieve

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you for that thoughtful post. I believe we all feel the same. The best we can do is give if we have the extra money, and pray, because love will always do a lot of good.

  18. Ollin, are you familiar with the It Gets Better Project?

    If you’re not, you should be. It’s exactly what you’re saying here—exponentially.

    • Ollin says:

      Of course. I made a video for them, but they’ve never put it up. I think they’re back up with so many requests.

      Although I never seriously thought of hurting myself, I could understand how being a teen and being gay can spiral into something worse. I was lucky that I had a supportive group of friends and family, so that I felt loved and accepted. But I can see that young gay men and women who aren’t lucky to have that kind of support might go down a darker road. Let’s keep them in our prayers, too.

  19. Linda says:

    Love you …

  20. Lynn Fang says:

    Ollin, that is really beautiful. I was brought up in a non-religious household, and became somewhat of a Richard Dawkins militant atheist not long ago. Now I too am ‘simply being’. I really loved your take on prayer. I have always scorned it as something for religious folk, something that does not really give any measurable outcome. Why should I pray now? Will it actually do something? But I can get behind an assertion of will, and certainly that what I need is what the world needs. Thank you for changing my world.

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