Table of Contents
Prayer is a powerful ritual that has been practiced for centuries. Ancient scrolls and tablets have been discovered and translated of documented prayers our ancestors had prayed. Their examples have taught many of us spiritual individuals how we too might communicate with God. I don’t know about you, but for me, it was ackward talking out loud to thin air. It took me a couple decades before I even began to grasp the beginning of the understanding what it takes to be comfortable in that ritual.
When I was in my early 30s, “manefesting” was becoming a trend. Everywhere I looked, there were articles about manifesting your dreams and life. As I started to study it, I realized that manifesting was a form of self love. The act of “manifesting what you want” is simply focusing your mind, psyching yourself up, and finding determination and willpower to work hard and stay focused on what you want to achieve. Manifesting is just a new fancy word for “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, which is a highly offensive statement in this generation.
As I studied scripture, as a Christian, I also realized that the prayers that were in the Bible were of people who truly knew their own heart, who knew who they were, what they were capable of. They would pray with humility and a sense of rawness. They knew their dark side (their shadow self, if you will). They were very imperfect.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that has a lot of hurting people, people who were not raised in a healthy home where they would learn those strong mental skills to use to stay focused and determined. So many of us come from damaged pasts and require inner healing before we could even begin to know how to pray or talk to God.
It’s not as simple as talking to thin air. I wouldn’t want something that shallow and empty either. The desire to know how to pray is when you know you are ready to find healing, discover self love, and learn how to pray.
Here are four phases you must go through before you can confidently say you know how to pray:
Phase One: The Shadow Work
Shadow work involves getting in touch with the parts of you that you have repressed, usually since childhood.
You likely have a dark side – psychology says that everyone does – but there’s also a process that might help you work through that part of yourself. It’s called “shadow work,” and involves “diving into the unconscious material that shapes our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors,” according to therapist Akua Boateng, Ph.D. The goal is to make those unconscious fixations – such as the pain of a traumatic event – part of your conscious awareness so that you can then work on them in therapy, says Boateng. Those unconscious aspects, which are responsible for your impulsive behaviors and a part of your so-called dark side, can result from painful experiences, trauma, and past memories, explains Boateng.
Dealing with your past is necessary for healing, says Boateng. “As a result, I encourage clients to form a new relationship with some of the unlikeable, unreasonable, wounded parts of their psyche in order to integrate new patterns into their lives,” she explains. This is where shadow work comes into play.
What Is Shadow Work?
Popularized by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, M.D., the “shadow self” is a side that you may have learned to suppress as a child. For instance, if you were scolded for throwing a tantrum, you may have stored that anger away and put on a more socially acceptable smiling face for the world. You were taught early on that being angry was undesirable. This anger, as well as rage, jealousy, greed, and selfishness, are feelings that everyone has, but not everyone is comfortable expressing them. These suppressed emotions or characteristics are a part of your shadow personality.
“Shadow work is all about the unconscious mind, which consists of the things that we repress and hide from ourselves, such as traumas,” and shadow personalities, explains Danielle Massi, L.M.F.T. Your shadow self might show up when you’re triggered, in your relationships, and through varying levels of anxiety and depression, she says. And when this seemingly dark side does rise up, it might reveal that something about your personality that’s worth a closer look.
To begin your own practice, “I would recommend beginning to practice meditation,” says Massi. “When we meditate, our minds relax into an altered brain state where the unconscious mind is easily accessed.”
Massi recommends trying to relax by listening to soothing music and staring at a lit candle for at least five minutes to help focus your mind. She suggests noticing where your mind wanders and journaling your experiences and if any negative thoughts come up. “Instead of trying to force thoughts out of your mind, invite them in,” she says. These thoughts can be revealing, explains Massi. Ask yourself what your thoughts are telling you, and that can help you to uncover your shadow self.
It’s also worth paying attention to what triggers you on a daily basis and why. A good place to start is paying attention to relationship dynamics, according to Boateng. “Do you find yourself getting angry at certain types of conversations? Or feeling sad when seeing others succeed? These are signs of internal reactions that tell a story of your past experiences,” she says. Massi has also created a shadow work journal that you can buy online with shadow work prompts to help guide you deeper into your shadow.
As with all forms of therapy and self-reflection, shadow work takes time and intention, and at times it may be painful. It’s important to go through the process with self-compassion, says Boateng. “We mustn’t judge ourselves for the behavior, but hold ourselves accountable for healing from the experience.”
Phase Two: Mantras & Self Love
Once you have acknowledged your shadow self, you then have to learn how to balance both sides of yourself. Your shadow self will always be there, and soon you will realize how much you need it. However, unless you learn the balance, you will always lack that harmony and contentment that we yearn for.
One day, after the birth of my third child, I was sitting with my therapist in a virtual meeting. I was positioned on the floor in my bedroom with my phone propped up on the nightstand. I will never forget what she told me: You need to give yourself grace. You need to learn self love. Talk to your younger self. She’s there!
Oh shit. It was as if it clicked for me, somewhere in my brain, deep down where I have a treasure trove of locked away cases. I had sealed them all up and slapped a big sticker that read FIXED, and had moved on. I accepted my past. I thought I had healed from it. I had forgiven those who did me wrong. I had found peace, but the minute she said what she said, I saw all those cases again, but this time I saw a young me. I had my signature raccoon eyes, wearing jeans and a navy blue blouse. My hands were clasped together. My head was looking down, but my eyes were looking up at me with a scared, uneasy expression like she had failed me.
I looked at her with such love, I thought I was going mad. I was shocked at the amount of emotions I was feeling at that moment. For the first time during my year long journey of personal healing that I decided to go on, I was finally able to do an assignment from my therapist.
I kept looking at her with an expression I know my children have seen; unconditional love. I wanted to run over there and hold her, tell her how amazing she was, that she did it, she made me proud, that I loved her so much.
And that’s precisely what I did.
Phase Three: Rituals
The dictionary says that “a ritual is a genuine ceremony consisting of actions performed according to a prescribed order.” That kind sounds like our mundane tasks that we do every day, but that we also find enjoyment doing. If you don’t find enjoyment doing those tasks, good. That means this book is definitely for you.
It was only about a year ago when I had finally completed this phase myself and had began to realize the extensive self-journey I had been on. I found myself looking forward to my morning routine – something that had NEVER crossed my mind before. I would get excited to do my house chores and the kids bedtime routine. But cooking, I still hate cooking.
That desire to complete a daily routine turned into motivation that was distributed throughout my entire lifestyle. I found myself wanting to care for every part of my life the way I always should have. My relationships became a priority. My outlook and mindset became a daily thing to care for. More than anything else, I began to understand the energies around me; and because of that realization, everything about my life became spiritual.
Phase Four: Disciple
Disciple is like exercise. It is doing the very thing you initially dont want to do, but you do it anyway. And JUST like exercise, eventually you begin to enjoy it, look forward to it, and could even say you love doing it. This is because you stayed disciplined. You pushed through regardless if you “wanted” to or not. That is the final phase of learning how to pray. In fact, this final phrase kinda ties in all of the phases and is the longest running phase out of the four because you will be practicing discipline throughout all the phases.
The last phase also comes with huge rewards because as you begin to love doing it, you start to visibly change. Like exercise, you become fit and healthy, sexy perhaps. With prayer, you begin to confidently feel that you know how to pray. You begin to reap the benefits of prayer, finally. You begin to see prayers answered. The key to this phase is not giving up. Hold the coarse. Shadow Work will help ensuring you stay disciplined. Doing the rituals will help ease you into this new way of life. And before you know it, talking to God throughout your day will be second nature, will be something you simply cannot not do. And with that steady communication comes answered prayers and blessings throughout your life.
My connection to God started when I was very young, thanks to my mother. She taught me early on that there are things out there much greater than us. There are energies, good ones and bad ones, that we can feel. She taught me how to recognize feeling them and noticing them. It is because of my upbringing, all the good and bad, that I mastered prayer and manifestation (My definition: asking God for something that He ends up giving me).
Soon, with all four phases implemented, you too will be drawing energies around you. People will notice. Temperatures will change in front of you, and you will feel 100% loved and valued by that Something so much greater than us.