“Try praying differently, and see what happens: Instead of asking for ‘a way to sleep with her,’ try asking for ‘a way to stop desiring to sleep with her.’ Instead of ‘a way to get rid of him,’ try asking for ‘a way to not crave his demise.’ Instead of ‘a way to not lose my child,’ try asking for ‘a way to lose my fear of it.'”MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 9.40.(6)
Look, we all pray — regardless of whether we’re religious or not. We pray whether we realize it (or want to admit it) or not. We might pray to God, or to the universe, or to some higher power in general. We all ask that higher power for something, from time to time.
The problem, as Marcus Aurelius sees it in The Daily Stoic today, is that we generally pray directly for the outcome we desire. We pray for something to happen, or for something else to not happen.
What if, instead, we prayed for the inner strength to handle whatever comes our way?
What if we prayed for the resilience necessary to withstand the storm that we see headed in our direction?
Or what if we prayed for the wisdom to know how to navigate any situation that presents itself?
The desire for things which we don’t have causes pain. (It’s a very Buddhist thought, but still true.) Desire means that we want something, and want indicates a lack of something. And that perceived lacking comes from fear at its root. We are afraid of not having something that we think we need, and we create pain in our minds as a direct result.
Try praying differently. Rather than praying for the things you desire, instead pray that the desire and the underlying fear of lacking be removed from you. Pray that you receive wisdom, instead of specific outcomes.