Ask Steve Austin Best of Messy Grace faith Messy Grace Millennials Recovery Religious Recovery The Struggle With Church

I stopped praying months ago. Here’s what happened.

The truth is, I haven't prayed in months. I wonder if it's all glass up there. Cries for help, for deeper understanding, asking for answers, they just echo chaos back down on me.

I was taught things about prayer like, "Ask and it shall be given to you, Seek and you shall find, Knock and the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7 (KJV)

I pictured God as a mix between Santa Claus and the Genie in Aladdin's lamp, complete with the voice of Robin Williams (may he Rest In Peace). I believed if I did all the right things and followed after God's will, God would somehow magically meet my every request.

But God ain't no beck-and-call girl.

You can't just rub Buddha's belly on your way out of the Temple or the Chinese restaurant and expect that things are now supernaturally going to fall into place and your whole existence will now make sense.

β€œIt’s who you are and the way you live that count before God.” John 4:24 (The Message)

You want to know the most powerful prayer I've ever prayed? It was September 24, 2012, three days after I should have died. I rolled over, sat up, and slowly placed my feet on the floor. The nurse rolled me down the hall, from the ICU room to the psych ward. When that looming metal door clanged shut, I whispered, "If you're there, help me."

The act of choosing to get better was more powerful than uttering those words. In that moment, I chose to live. I chose not to try to die again.

We are all recovering from something. We are all choosing, each day, to not live in the graveyard of yesterday, but to shake ourselves loose and breathe again. We are all echoing the song of Lazarus, whose life wasn't finished when his heart stopped beating.

All of life is a prayer. Every word we speak and everything we do is an act of worship. A declaration of who we are, how we value our own life, and what we want to give to the rest of creation.

Everything is prayer. #graceismessy #ProgressiveChristian #agnostic via @iamsteveaustin

Click to Tweet

Each moment I spend with my son, listening to him, pouring my hard earned wisdom into him, laughing with him, teaching him - it's all prayer. I am praying that he will live a better childhood than me. Prayers that he will feel safe and happy, healthy and whole, loved and at peace.

When I hold my little girl close and whisper, "You are so beautiful. I love you to the moon and back,", I am praying, "God, let her know her value. Let her know that her worth is found in who she is. Let her rest in the knowledge that her father accepts, respects, and cherishes her, exactly as she is."

When I push the kitchen utensils aside, grab my wife gently by the wrists, and spin her toward me, looking her in the eyes as I wrap her in a warm embrace, I am praying to the Almighty that her heart will never feel the need to wander.

When I tell her, "I love this life we are creating," I am praying. And when I wash the dishes or take out the trash or bring her the first cup of coffee in the morning, those are all acts of worship and devotion. Because I am in love with the divine beauty that inhabits her soul. My wife is a deep well, and in her eyes, I have met God.

So maybe you don't know the right words. Maybe you haven't mastered the language. But everything we do is prayer. When we treat others with kindness and dignity, our souls are singing to God.

When you secretly pay your neighbor's power bill, you are offering a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus.

When you gather on a Sunday afternoon to feed the homeless, your soul is crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty."

When you sit through an all-day dance recital or sweat in the noonday sun all weekend at a baseball tournament, you are praying that your children would know just how priceless they are to you.

So do I think prayer works? Yes, but not in the way I was raised to believe.

When we are actively involved in the lives of those around us - doing what we can to better our world - we are praying. So in a sense, everything is prayer.

I stopped praying months ago. Here's what happened. #graceismessy via @iamsteveaustin

Click to Tweet

By Steve Austin

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Steve this is so powerful. I am a big prayer who prays usually all through the day. My brother is rather wealthy and one time when we met in London he told me he was giving his tithes to a young lady in the church who had cancer and could not work. He said he had always given to the church but felt that he was lead to give them to her. What a God that is always on time. Love you my friend.

    • Oh, Hugh. THANK YOU! So glad this spoke to you. And yes – I believe we are supposed to support the work of God, however we can, and that certainly means supporting those in need, like the precious young lady your brother was able to help. What a beautiful story!
      Love YOU, my friend.

  • I love this! I too have prayed and got results different than what I wanted. It caused my crisis of faith. So, your words resonate with me. The daily life things you describe in your post remind me of Enoch. The Bible says Enoch walked with God and then was no more. (Gen 5:22,24) This is a reminder to me that just doing what I do everyday and doing the boring tasks is walking with God.Love and hugs,

    • Marcella,Good to hear from you. Isn’t that story about Enoch amazing?? People have often interpreted it as, Enoch walked with God and then God took him up to Heaven. But I often wonder if that’s just a way to say, Enoch walked so closely with God in every big and small task, that eventually he was so “full” of God that it was almost like he didn’t even exist any more. All people could see….was God. Just my thoughts.

      Love and grace,

  • Steve;
    I must say your amazing talent for words and the strength it takes to put them on paper for the world to read is a answered prayer for a lot of us!! I’m truly blessed not to only know you but call you a friend!! I agree 100% on that everything we do is a prayer of some sorts! From taking your wife that first cup of coffee to start the day or that first morning text to wish them a great day. Not just a kind gesture on your part but a prayer that says I’ll always be there for you, to hold and protect you. Or supporting you kids of any age by enabling them to follow there dreams no matter what or where they may take them. Again a prayer that says you’ll give or do anything to ensure there childhood memories will be better than yours ever could’ve been. Or that they feel so comfortable they tell you everything and value your opinion over all others. This could go on and on, love it brother!! Keep it coming

    • Jeff!!! πŸ™‚
      So good to hear from you, dude. Thank you so much for the encouragement. You get it – and that is so exciting to me.

      We’ve got to plan a weekend get together some time soon. Miss your family.

      Thanks a ton,

  • Love this! I so identify with this kind of prayer. I’m not usually one to bow down and close my eyes to pray, and I think that’s okay with God.

  • Thank you.
    I needed to be reminded that even a smile to a person on the street is a prayer.
    With the anger and despair that COVID-19 has brought upon us, I want to be angry too but that would make my Heavenly Dad sad and so I do smile at strangers even if I don’t feel like it, now I know it is a prayer to help a stranger.
    Thank you again.

    • I pray more by my actions today than anything else. That, and lots of stillness/meditation.

      And we do attend a small Episcopal parish in our hometown, just not currently due to the pandemic.

      What about you?