I am one of those "odd" Quakers...those of you familar to friends say, "yea, well, who isn't." But I was raised by a lapsed Catholic father and a Quaker mother, neither emphasized prayer. It was something I found on my own. We lived somewhere so remote when I was a child that my mother, grandparents, and I were the only Quakers for close to 2oo miles. I am a birthright friend that never attended a Quaker meeting till I was 12 years old. I learned from my family the meaning of "letting your life speak."
As a child I was curious about religion and prayer. It was something that I knew other people did. My Catholic grandparents were always trying to take me to mass. But I didn't really understand what prayer was. I remember one winter my parents were reading the Little House on the Prairie books to me. I remember Laura Ingells Wilder recounting the importance of prayer in their family and how Pa would make them say their prayers before bed. I decided that that must be something everyone did -- pray before bed. I began to pray secretly after my parents put me to bed. I didn't kneel down to pray, I just lay in bed and spoke to god. I didn't know how other people prayed, but I figured if I talked to god he should be able to hear me -- otherwise he couldn't be very powerful. I would pray for all sorts of things, peace on earth, to end poverty, to end starvation, to save the whales...you think an 8 year old wouldn't do that but I did. I prayed for my family too. I prayed that my parents would stop fighting, drink less, and spend more time with me. I prayed that I wouldn't be fat anymore and that other kids would stop picking on me. I prayed for many other things too, I am sure.
This nightly prayer was something I kept up for many years. It got to a point where I couldn't fall asleep unless I prayed or had my daily conversation with god. However, sometime in the last 5 years, I quit praying every night. I think it was my constant drinking and depression. When you pass out everynight there is little time to remember god, in all that you are drinking to forget. But in the last year I have decided I needed to change things in my life. And while I still often fall asleep without talking to god, I try most mornings to thank god for my blessings. This is especially true on days I really don't want to get out of bed. Its a positive reinforcement for the day. "Thank you god for giving me this day. Thank you for my friends, new and old, near and far and all so dear. Thank you for my family. Please hold them in the light and bless them. Bless my extended family as well. Thank you for letting me back in school. Thank your for my medications, because I can find joy a little easier now. Thank you for all the blessings you have given me. Help me to be your vessel. Help me to do your work here on Earth. Help me be a better person. Thank you for giving me this day."