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Praying for onesself?

I’ve been steadily building up my prayer life since Lent, to the point now where I have a regular routine of prayer. I have an hour set aside at night during which I say the Rosary then read through the Evening Office (from here), followed by prayers for other people. I keep a Prayer Journal, and each day I write down in it the names of people I will be praying for that evening (including prayer requests that have come up in this community). I then conclude this with reading a chapter or two of a spiritual book; currently I’m reading my way through “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light”.

Last night, I was suddenly struck by the thought that in all my prayers every evening for the past three months, not once have I prayed for myself. I thought on why this might be, and came to the realisation that it feels somehow selfish to pray for myself. I can ask others to pray for me (though that, too, feels almost… I don’t know, self-centred? Self-indulgent?) but it just doesn’t feel right to pray directly for myself.

This may be, in part, a hangover from old ways as a Wiccan before I converted; in Wicca one is taught that all magic and divination should be for others, not the self, and that you should never try to see your own future. Or perhaps this is a block placed against me, so that I cannot pray for myself; I have been warned that occult powers will not let go of me so easily, and certainly I have been aware of temptations placed in my path which, thanks be to God, I have thus far avoided. I am aware of some of my old feelings of doubt creeping back during unwary moments, but each time I have found that praying a decade or two of the Rosary or reading a spiritually-inspiring passage overcomes them and fills me with awareness of the Holy Spirit once more. At my baptism, David and Jackie gave me a holding cross as a baptismal gift, and holding that also helps comfort and reassure me.

I wonder, do others have problems praying for themselves, or is this something I should work harder at? Should I be asking others to pray for me to overcome this block?

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About arkadyrose

Genderqueer artist, singer, musician, writer, tailor, mead-mazer and doll crafter living in Walthamstow, NE London. Periodically develop obsessions with various topics; currently it's Paganini, previously Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great, but also fascinated by Ancient Egypt and Romano-British culture. Christo-Pagan.

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Praying for onesself?

  1. I’m not quite sure what you mean by ‘praying for yourself’, or why it doesn’t feel right, so apologies if the following isn’t helpful. I do think that if we are secure in our identity as children of God, we should be secure in praying for our needs, as we do corporately in the text of the Our Father.

    In my experience, praying for myself and having others pray for me has become a path to humility rather than self-indulgence. Firstly, prayer that truly ‘lifts our hearts and minds to the Lord’ will not long admit self-prayer that focuses on any agenda contrary to God’s will. Secondly, I find it difficult to admit my own needs, and it’s far more comfortable for me to focus on ‘helping’ other people through prayer than to turn that thought inwards.

    If you would like me to pray for you in this matter or others, I would be very happy to.

    Posted by Kat | Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 8:49 pm
  2. By “praying for myself”, I refer to asking things for myself instead of others; asking for myself feels as though I am putting my own needs ahead of others.

    I think the problems I have in asking for prayer are the same as my problems with asking for help in general: always it comes back to pride, and in this I think you are correct that praying for myself or asking others to pray for me must become a path to humility. I have always been stubbornly self-reliant, and it is hard to overcome that and allow myself instead to accept that I need the Lord, even as I try to be obediant and worshipful. I am painfully aware that I do have a wilful, arrogant streak of which I am not proud, but paradoxically my pride does not allow me to ask for help to overcome it!

    I think I need to learn to ask for myself, even if only for the humility to accept that I need that help. If you would pray for me to find that humility, I would be grateful. 🙂

    Posted by arkadyrose | Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 10:20 pm
  3. God gives us permission to talk about our own needs as well as those of others.

    Perhaps some of what one can examine in your post is “what do we mean by prayer?”

    The narrowest sense is “asking (God),” but he is not the Heavenly Dispensary, giving (or withholding) favors because someone asked for them. God gives to all who ask.

    Liturgical prayers, the written-down kind, are useful because they have a universal quality to them. So yes, they’re definitely prayers. But so is our informal, meandering conversation with God; prayer is dialogue, if we listen.

    Suppose you have a good friend over for coffee. She always talks about everyone else’s needs, but never once mentions herself. Wouldn’t you find that strange? You might even be tempted to confront her a little about it, as if she thinks you have no interest in her. You’d probably encourage her to open up a little; certainly you’d give her some emotional support.

    Isn’t that the same situation you’re putting God in right now? What are you trying to do, impress him with your selfless intercessions? (God isn’t easily impressed by us!)

    It seems to me that prayer is about relationship, and relationship thrives in conversation. Talk to God about the question you posed here in your blog. Ask God if it’s okay for you to talk about yourself.

    No, you won’t win the lottery no matter how hard you pray for it. Selfish prayer is no more welcome than any other selfish act.

    But that’s where your wiccan background maybe even helps you a little; you already know the difference between selfishness and un.

    So start there, and learn to listen. I can’t quite explain it, but our chatter with God does actually turn into a dialogue; most people don’t know this, because they’ve never been taught to listen. In fact, our expectations of God are too small, not too large; God can have six billion conversations simultaneously, each one marked by intimacy and the warmest love.

    Your current practices are great. But ask God over for coffee, because she’ll always show up.

    Posted by josh | Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 10:35 pm
  4. I shall pray for you. : )

    I’m sure you have good reasons for wanting to be self-reliant, and many of us find it difficult to accept help from others and even from God. I take great inspiration from St. Peter’s constant struggle in this, and Christ’s response to it.

    “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” . . . When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” – John 13

    Posted by Kat | Thursday, May 29, 2008, 11:41 am
  5. Dear Arkady,

    I read your account of your baptism with tears in my eyes. I am so glad everyone came — Freda must have been happy too! How wonderful! And such an appropriate day for it too. What a wonderful gift, to have a holding cross that you can focus on during your devotions and as a tool to help deal with any spiritual interference. Your interpretation of your baptism as the gateway through which personal spiritual growth can and will occur is very true. There is more, of course! The very next step of your first Holy Communion was one such instance. Regarding your difficulty in asking God for personal things, I think you could be right in understanding that part of the problem may be spiritual opposition. Perhaps it would be good to get someone experienced in spiritual warfare to show you what to do to deal effectively with such things. I also agree with Josh’s comments. God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit– welcomes our interactions with Him. Many years ago I read Selwyn Hughes’ Every Day With Jesus devotional booklet of that month, in which he suggested that we invite Jesus to come into the kitchen, as it were, and have a coffee with us. I actually started doing this, more than 20 years ago I think, and it certainly revolutionised my prayer life. I still read these devotionals and am finding them very pertinent at the moment, for any Christian serious about their relationship with Jesus Christ. I am sending you a couple of books as a gift for your baptism, I hope you will find them interesting. Love and blessings to you, Freda and all the family,
    Helen

    Posted by Helen | Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 1:30 pm

Arkady Rose

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