Prayer Changes Me And Even The Atheists Say Hallelujah


I reply: I agree.

Profound response, I know. But I truly believe what he wrote.

Let me take you back some years. I am pretty desperate (because that’s what it takes for me to think that I cannot solve all my problems ALL BY MYSELF thank you very much). A friend suggests that I pray everyday about my situation. She says that I don’t even need to believe in God or understand why. She suggests that I get on my knees and talk.

So that evening, I look right and left. I creep quietly up the stairs and walk nonchalantly into my bedroom. And I quickly close and lock the door. I walk to the other side of the bed. As far away from the door and windows as possible. I crouch down ready to jump up at any time and say NOT PRAYING!

I finally settle on my knees and bring my hands in front of me. My breath is rushing in and out because I’m pretty sure that I’m going to get caught. Haven’t you heard of the roving bands of intelligent atheist looking to point and laugh at the crazy praying people?

I pause for a moment and say: Hi God. It’s me, Alex. Yes. Like the book, but with the wrong title. Because it’s a darn good book with a title that I always mess up. (Clearly.)

And the next day I pray again. Same routine. Same fear of being caught. Slightly longer conversation.

I pretty much repeat this until I begin to realize that something is happening. At first, I think that everyone else has changed. Wow. This prayer thing ROCKS. But I am assured, by people smarter than I, that my prayers are not THAT powerful. My prayers are not mystical spells and magic wands. In fact, it is pointed out that my situation has not changed much. But my perspective has shifted. I carried a bit more peace and joy into my daily living. Perhaps I am the one who has changed. Maybe daily prayer is changing me.

Now given my track record, this should’ve been the point where I say: Thank you very much for all your help. Now I’ll stop doing what is working so well and go back to my old ways. Buh-bye! Followed by a big ol’ high-five to God and prayer as I walk out the door.

But even that has changed. Slightly. But enough that I continue to chat with God to this day. I don’t even need to be in a locked room anymore! I pray in the car after that @##hole cuts me off. I pray in line while the store clerk figures out how to process a check (because WHO STILL USES CHECKS?). I pray when good things happen. And bad things. And no things. I even pray WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Like holding hands. And, eventually, I pray FOR other people. But not in a smite kind of way. More like in a thy will be done kind of way. Because maybe I DON’T know all the answers. (This last sentence is up for debate in my household. Just an FYI.)

So I wholeheartedly agree with my twitter friend. Because when I think that it’s YOU who needs to change and it’s YOU who needs to pray, I stop and pray on it. And eventually you get to be exactly who you are. Because I’ve changed. Because I am forever changed. By the simple act of prayer.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

29 thoughts to “Prayer Changes Me And Even The Atheists Say Hallelujah”

  1. An absolute truth. There is no way Prayer will not work b/c prayer changes two things: gives you hope 2. it changes your heart.

    Prayer is not a magic genie bottle where you put your hands together and get what you ask for. Prayer is a place where you turn when you have no place to turn.

    I love prayer. I was raised in prayer, and now we all begin our day with prayer.

    I couldn't make it without it.

    God blessed you with an absolutely life saving friend.

    BEAUTIFUL POST!!! Thank you, and thank you, and thank you again!!!

  2. I love your description of praying as if you were about to be caught…it's hilarious, because it's so true. I've often felt that way myself.

    Hilarity aside, this post is so insightful. The idea that prayer helps change our perspectives is not one that you hear very often. Generally the benefits of prayer are framed externally – things will change in your life – rather than framed internally – things will change within you, but not necessarily around you.

    I do believe in the power of prayer, although I'm not very good about praying regularly. Your post has given me a new perspective on prayer, and a lot to think about…

  3. I try to pray at night before bed. I don't readily admit that, though. And I don't put my hands together. I just close my eyes and say what I want to say, and use the word “pray.” But in Quakerism, we use the word “hold in the light.” I like it because the term and idea of prayer has been monopolized a little in our culture. I also like the Hindu/yoga idea of “setting your intention.” Doing that has had such a profound effect on my life.

    (BTW, check out the poem I just posted. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on it.)

  4. I've had a similar experience with prayer. I took a suggestion out of desperation, and slowly my thinking and life began to change. I still sometimes get nervous when I'm away from the safety of my own bedside that the atheist police are watching; but I just pray for Gods will for me and have faith that this fear too will soon dissipate. I guess God just took care of some of that fear as I now know I'm not the only one! Thanks for sharing Alex!

  5. Alex, I love and respect your perspective here, and what you wrote in that last paragraph is an honest, inspiring and encouraging admission and insight:
    “Because when I think that it’s YOU who needs to change and it’s YOU who needs to pray, I stop and pray on it. And eventually you get to be exactly who you are. Because I’ve changed.”
    So good and true. High five.

  6. I love that you begin your family's day with prayer. I need to get into that habit more. And yes, God blessed me a hundred times over with that friend and many more who remind me why prayer works 🙂
    Thank YOU!!

  7. I'm glad that it has given you some new perspective too. I was really surprised how much I felt like my friend's tweet got to the heart of the matter. I go through more and less disciplined phases with prayer but I try to always keep a dialogue going even when I'm not formally praying.

  8. I like the phrase “hold in the light”. I think the prayer monopoly is one reason why I was nervous to get caught!

    I love setting my intention in the beginning of yoga practice. It makes the entire experience more thoughtful. But I am awfully undisciplined when it comes to doing that in my daily life. But you've inspired me to try!

  9. Here I am! The atheist police. Not really, I'm the agnostic police and you've convinced me to give it a shot. Why not, I'll think of it as meditation in case it freaks me out.

  10. I thought I heard sirens!! Hee hee.
    Thank you for commenting. I'm glad to hear that my post inspired you to not
    pray-pray but just pray. (and maybe call it meditation.) It's really cool.

  11. Hmm. Interesting. Almost persuasive.

    Except I have done all of this before. The believing and the praying, which I have to admit, did help when I felt completely helpless. It helped to know that maybe someone's out there listening.

    And then I stopped – for many reasons. Although I continue to want to, so maybe I will again someday. I'm just not quite there yet.

  12. Very nice and thought-provoking post. I grew up agnostic, though I prayed alot growing up, and then I got angry and stopped when something I had wanted very badly didn't come through for me. I know, I didn't understand the meaning of prayer then. Now, as a family, we pray together everyday before we eat. My husband who is Christian leads the prayers -sometimes they're for our family and friends, sometimes (often) they're for people we don't know (gosh, lots of earthquake victims to think of this year). I've found that this has been very healing for me and it's been a good way to have our 6 year old think about the people and world beyond his immediate circles. Thanks for posting about this.

  13. Prayer is so comforting to me. It helps to think that God is listening, even if the answer is NO.

    My husband is anti-religion, even though he is pro-God (if that makes sense), so at home, we don't pray as a family. When I pray, it has always been a private conversation with God.

    Reading your post, I realized that maybe I'm cheating my kids with that approach. Maybe if I took the time to pray with them, they would get comfort from it also.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  14. I love this post. It is so honest and so beautiful and so true. I was not raised praying. If we prayed ever, it was at my grandparents house and it was more of a ritual experience, rather than a conversation with God. It wasn't until I was just out of grad school and desperately searching for some spiritual answers that I turned to prayer finally. I wanted to understand some specific questions I had. So at the advice of a good friend, I prayed. I prayed so sincerely and so hard about this that I was shocked and also though maybe the atheist police would catch and incarcerate me. But you know what happened? My prayers were answered and I found the Baha'i Faith. I'm not trying to proselytize or anything, but for me, it was the answer I was searching for in my personal spiritual journey. And I found peace. And a way to connect God into my life in a meaningful everyday way. This experience forever changed me. And it also made me truly believe in the power of prayer. Thank you for this amazing and wonderful post!!!

  15. That's okay. I think that it's okay if you never get there too (unless of course you WANT to get there, then it'd be a bummer). I'm glad prayer helped when you needed it.

  16. I like that it gives a greater perspective to my children too. Although I am not in the habit yet of involving them often. Dinner would be a good place to start I think. Thanks!

  17. You're welcome. I DEFINITELY understand anti-religion but pro-God. I have MANY friends who have AWESOME relationships with God but have nothing to do with religion. I think prayer has been monopolized (as a commenter mentioned) by religion but I don't necessarily think that it has anything to do with religion.

  18. That is so interesting because friends of mine who just had a baby was talking about the Baha'i Faith and looking into it as a way to share faith as a family. I'm so glad that you found your spiritual home 🙂

  19. Grrr. I tried to post a reply, but I was told to leave a real comment. ha ha So I joined your lovely blog, and maybe my comment will be deemed worthy. :o)

    First of all, I started praying just like you – sheepishly.

    But now with 16 years of conscious Christianity (conscious, as in, my own adult choice as opposed to something learned but never questioned) under my belt, I'd have to say that prayer does more than just something for the person who prays.

    If you remember, Abraham convinced God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if only 10 righteous people could be found after negotiating the number with Him several times (Genesis 18). I think God is ready to change his mind based on our faith – if it's still in line with his wisdom and will.

    And then I remember the countless personal prayers offered that came true to a letter (i.e. a husband from another country who spoke a different language who loved kids and who was a musician) or (God, I'll only take this job if they offer me an X salary on this specific day and they have to offer to pay for my education during the interview – I was trying to make this one really hard because I didn't want the job, but he answered every prayer and the job led to so many other things). I won't log down your comment box with all the examples, as they might not be deemed real.

  20. I tried this and, funny, I was also embarrassed. When it started “working”, that is, I started thinking there’s a real God and He was listening and, worse, when my prays were actually heard (meaning that what I was praying for kept succeeding) I got scared out of my wits…almost.

    Note that being an atheist for 58 years this whole thing was very foreign to me but when it started working and I started believing that there’s a God actually helping me, I had to stop. It didn’t make sense to me.

    But then bad things started occurring. I kept saying to myself how this is absurd, etc. But I was too afraid to start it up again, so I actually hired a hypnotist to deal with my fears and concerns. She helped me be more open to spirituality, or some sort of nebulous “light” that would keep me safe. It actually worked as I was able to start this praying routine sans all the fear I had with it.

    And again, I started making more money, my girlfriend came back to me (she called me out of the blue!!!), and a few other “coincidences”.

    Well, I had to admit this to my girlfriend, a practicing Catholic, and needless to say she was overjoyed as it bothered her that I was so “ungodly”. As a bit of thanks for my “luck” I agreed (after numerous requests) to go to Mass with her, my very first ever. I felt a bit uncomfortable because I really didn’t understand any of it. So I started reading a few things about what the Mass and its meaning. Still, I felt out of place but couldn’t admit this to my girlfriend so, instead, I rehired up the old certified hypnotist who, thankfully, was also a Catholic so she understood my confusion. This time my purpose was to feel comfortable when attending Mass with my girlfriend. Also, my praying was, like you, starting to go throughout the day and night, little ones here and there and sometimes longer prayers.

    Well, I must say, I’m a good hypnotist subject because it only took two sessions and I not only felt comfortable but I actually enjoyed it…a lot. After going for several months, I got to easily understand when to say what and would seamlessly follow along with everyone. I even started to crave the experience, reading the Bible in anticipation of what was going to be spoken. That led to an almost daily reading sometimes as long as an hour as I felt I was learning about God, what God is and means, as opposed to what I had thought while praying. I think, also, that the Bible helped me to see God more clearly, as opposed to the nebulous idea about it. It actually helped my prayer focus. But more, though I still “officially” identified myself as an atheist, I knew I was still too embarrassed to admit that maybe I may have changed my mind on that. It’s hard to admit a change after 58 years of telling everyone how foolish the idea of God is. What would everyone think? All my friends, excepting the newfound Church friends, were atheist.

    So, again, I asked the hypnotist to help me deal with my embarrassment to admit a change to my friends, sometimes even to myself, as confusing as that may sound. This time it took many sessions, I think 7, to come to know that it’s OK to admit my new beliefs and that my beliefs would give me strength, as would each admission I made.

    Long-story-short, I finally was able to come to terms with wanting to convert to Catholicism. My girlfriend is now my fiance and we will be married in our Church after I finish with the RCIA classes and get Baptized. And, besides the short shock of my family members and the laughter of my atheist friends (though some were absolutely stunned, though they got over it because I keep my faith to myself and to my fiance and her family), I am in a better place than I ever was.

    I was searching the net to find other people who may have had similar experiences with prayer. It’s a lot more common than most think, though it’s rare to find a true atheist coming to God. I think the hypnotist facilitated the way I dealt with some of the obstacles so that may be unique, I don’t know.

    Either way, I’m thankful to God about finding God. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.