I have been very anxious lately, about the start of my social work internship and my research class, both of which I’ve been dreading since before I applied to graduate school. I haven’t found much that helps with the anxiety. Anti-anxiety meds like Xanax and Valium just wipe me out, meditation makes me more anxious, exercise is good, but leaves me exhausted. I’ve gotten better at asking for help from the people around me, but there’s just so much they can do. When you have no control, what can you do but pray?
Part of me really does believe that prayers sent out to God do reach some energy in the universe. It’s an imperfect system, like tweeting out to the world at large and hoping that the right person, who may not even be on twitter, hears you. But there’s a chance, and it’s better than not sending the message at all. I don’t believe that God puts my request on a list and then decides whether or not I deserve the help I want. I believe that somehow my message ping pongs around the universe, and if I’m lucky, it snowballs and connects with other energies and comes back to me in some form, hopefully something helpful.
I pray for my dogs all the time. I used to pray for Cricket to find comfort and calm. I would put my prayers into her scratching sessions, hoping that the practical behaviors I could do for her would be transformed into something more. And I am always praying for Butterfly – that she will have a good life, that her heart will last a bit longer – and I believe that my prayers work for her. Butterfly is a very good vessel for prayer, because she absorbs energy into her body and spirit without much of a defense system, whereas Cricket is more circumspect and “rational.” It is harder for Cricket to hear the prayers said for her, and to absorb the love sent her way, because there is so much interference – so much static in her system. But she still needs the good energy to be sent her way, even if only one prayer out of a thousand gets through her tough hide.
The cantor at my synagogue was ill this summer (don’t worry, he’s better now) and had to take months off from work. He spent a great deal of time alone, but, he said, because of all of the people in the congregation who reached out to him, and all of the people he knew were thinking of him and praying for him, he never felt like he was alone. This is what prayer can do. Just knowing that someone is praying for you on a regular basis can be healing, and make you feel cared for and safe.
And reaching out to God ourselves can make us feel less alone, even when we are physically alone. It reminds us of the human beings who wrote the prayers, of the people who taught us those prayers, of the times we have prayed together, and of all of the people who may be saying those same prayers at the same time all around the world. There’s a humility to prayer, a recognition that we can’t solve everything on our own, and are not expected to. Reminding ourselves of that on a regular basis can be healing in itself.
I think dogs pray too. First they ask directly for what they want: a walk, a treat, attention. But when the request is denied, or when they are left alone – when they feel powerless – I think they must pray the way we do. Like Butterfly picking up one of my socks when I was a way at the hospital, and carrying it in her mouth. The sock could be seen as a transitional object, as a way for her to hold onto me and feel close to me – or it could be seen as a prayer, that she would soon see me again.
Cricket talks to God all the time with her barking. She isn’t so much telling me, or Mom, that danger is at the door, she is calling on God to protect her family. And most of the time, God seems to come through for her, so, it works!
Music is the best delivery system for prayer, because it reaches our hearts so much more quickly than words alone. It works especially well when we pray in groups, because it brings all of those heartbeats into the same rhythm, the same space, so that not only can you hear the words being spoken to you, you can feel everyone in the room coming together.
Ever since the cantor’s illness this summer, and the string of national and international disasters that have been overwhelming everyone, my synagogue has returned to the practice of singing a healing prayer at the end of Friday night services. People have found great comfort in singing it together, and saying the names of loved ones in need of healing, out loud or silently. I want it to work for me, but it doesn’t. Maybe the problem is that I don’t believe that my anxiety is worthy of a healing prayer, or maybe my hide is just as tough as Cricket’s and it will take a lot more prayer to get through. We are related, after all.
Lovely post. So nice to hear about people who have such a special relationship with their pets.
We live in uncertainty, never far from people who don’t understand sentient suffering. Anxiety is rational, but what a blessing it is to say, up to this moment, I have survived and nothing truly awful has happened.
The injured orphaned child in the war-zone: in danger, in pain, traumatized; would wish for any set of circumstances life could throw at her, instead of her bloodied and alone reality.
Appreciating each moment that is not truly awful, is the antidote to anxiety. Most of us are so lucky. Enjoy your peace. Your safety. Your family. Your friends. Your life. Cherish every moment of this luxurious existence, and pray for those who are truly in pain.
My therapist has a dog with her during sessions which helps me a lot!
My therapist used to have her dog with her too; it makes a huge difference.
St. Augustine: “He who sings prays twice”.
I pray in part because I think God would have me say what’s on my mind–which right now is that you would feel the peace that surpasses all understanding. Be well, John
Sweet Rachel, God does hear all our prayers and does answer. In the quieness of our hearts we can talk to God (that’s what prayer is) and wait on Him. He is personal, all knowing, all sufficient, all caring and all loving. I talk to God everyday and have seen him do amazing things in my heart and life! “Why are you so cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 44:5 ). “Come to me, all who labour and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28). …..”and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7).
“God, please bless Butterfly and Cricket as they show Rachel your unconditional love. Bless Rachel in everything she puts her hand to; helping so many people as a social worker intern. Bring her great joy and purpose in what she does, in your strenghth and peace, Amen”
I understand that sense that God is not answering your prayers and has abandoned you. Or, worse still, seems to be directing his wrath your direction and zapping you with all his might. I have also come out the other side of these moments and can appreciate the bigger picture and how we can lose sight of that so easily.
I struggle with anxiety myself and a sense of impending doom, which isn’t entirely misplaced either. I have quite a few strategies for trying to manage that but when the anxiety starts escalating, many of these things go out the window.
I really appreciated this post and the questions, doubts and issues you raised, which have gone through my mind on many occasions.
Take care and a pray, like other commenters, that you will know that peace which surpasses our understanding.
Well said, Rowena
Thank you! I’m definitley working on it.
Both of your anxieties will be like so many things in life we fear in anticipation: they will be so much better and easier after you start them that they may even wind up being some of the favorite things in your life. Good luck!
I hope so! Thank you!
Amazing pictures of your dogs! I know how you feel about the anxiety. Don’t give up. You are worth it! It’s worth to keep trying to heal. Do you also have problem with sleeping? Anxiety and insomnia usually goes hand to hand as we are thinking and worying in the bed before we go sleep. Try watching the sunrise, it has amazing healing power and it is helping me a lot. (I also write about it a lot.) If you believe that your prayer is getting lost in the sea of too many people calling to God, try it in the morning at sunrise. Many people are still sleeping when the sun is rising so there may be less traffic on the way to God’s ears. I do believe that God can hear us anytime, but it is extraordinary magical to pray in the morning when I watch the beauty of sunrise.
What a great idea!!!!
Nice article 🙂 Dogs can indeed bring a lot of positive vibrations to our life !
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I am a big believer in prayer. Without it, I would be lost. I loved your post.
Thank you so much!
Some lovely sentiments. 🙂 I totally agree with you about music. It is the most precious gift we humans possess.
Just wanting you to know you continue in our prayers. Emma our Lab stares at the pics of your doggies, wol,
Oh, that’s so sweet! Thank you!
We enjoy your writing.
Thank you so much!
Prayers are indispensable, but if you need more, google Tapping or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). It seems weird at first, but it has helped me.
I’ll look into that. Thank you!
First I want to thank you for sharing this it really touched my heart. When it comes to praying, what I do is just talk. When I need something I ask, but I talk to God like He is my friend or even better my Father. Thanks again, keep up the good blogging 😊
That’s a lovely idea. Thank you!
Oh how I understand anxiety and how prayer can help ease it. I hope things are looking up!
Well…I’m still praying!
Your lovely post was salve for my heart today as I’m praying quite a lot for my sweet, sick little beagle. Wonderful photos, especially that gorgeous first one.
Thank you! I hope your baby feels all of the love!
Thanks, Rachel, I hope so, too.