Why we should all pray (including atheists like me)

I’m atheist and I pray.

No, I’m not agnostic. I’m not harboring a subconscious desire to convert. I don’t believe in any god in any form. I don’t believe in the soul. Telling me that there’s a god is like telling me blue is red. It’s not a case of wanting or not wanting to believe, I just don’t.

Blue is blue, and red is red.

The atheist guide to prayer

My friends may be surprised to hear however that every night before going to sleep I pray.

I’m not talking about kneeling in front of an altar or genuflecting. I don’t pray to anyone or to any god.

Call it meditation, call it reflection, call it what you like, prayer is my moment to take stock of the day and say thank you for my good fortune. My son Rafa’s most recent hospital spell has reminded me just how fragile life is, and just how much I adore my family. Put simply, nothing else matters.

When I can’t sleep and I’ve got a zillion ideas buzzing around in my head a short prayer allows me to refocus and ground myself. As an avid user of social media and in an era of 24/7 communication it’s very important for me. I make a mental checklist of what I’m grateful for and what I need to work on.

Prayer offers comfort in times of ultimate stress. In my case, it’s not about asking a god to intervene and help. It’s about reminding myself that I’m strong, that I can do this and that I have a duty to stay strong for those I love.

Prayer for parenting

I also pray with my kids. Aged two and four years, my boys are always on the run and prayer serves as an extra moment of calm after story time. Through prayer they open up to me about things they’ve enjoyed or found tough in the day. Sometimes they prefer to pray silently and take a moment for themselves.

Of course they don’t pray in the same way as adults may do (last night we prayed to baby Jesus in his spaceship, the night before it was baby Jesus in dinosaurland…) but I’m sure it helps.

No miracle worker

I’m not claiming my approach is fool proof. Within minutes of waking up I’m tearing my hair out with my kids on the rampage, I’m swearing at our not so smart kettle and generally cursing the universe.

I’ve got annoyed, upset and even angry when people have offered their prayers when when I’ve actually been in need of practical help. Thanks for the prayer, but I’d actually love it if you could hold my sick kid while I shower.

The prayer rainbow 

Throughout my travels I’ve had many well meaning adherents of various faiths try to convince me that their religion could help. I’ve always argued religion wasn’t for me. But that’s not actually true. Some aspects of religion, prayer at least, can be great tool, even for atheists like me.

In fact, I’d argue that we should all pray, in whatever form suits us best. Prayer doesn’t need to be red or blue, it can be whatever shade we want it to be.

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