“I want you to pray for my son to stop drinking,” my client says. She is so sure I can work my magic and straighten out her son. Although she’s spent a lot of years attempting that and failed, she thinks it should be easy for me. My response is, “I can’t pray for someone to change his behavior unless he requests it.”
We can all identify with this mother because we’ve probably been in the same tough spot. We know prayer works. We see someone we love struggling with drugs, relationships or debt and we see that his current choices are not working. What could be simpler than praying for him to make new choices?
As the observer, we can see clearly that our loved one is making self-destructive choices. On one level, it makes sense to pray for someone to stop smoking or drinking or arguing with his boss. We worry about our loved ones because we love them. What’s wrong with that?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to help our nearest and dearest but life doesn’t work that way. We each must take charge of our own lives. If you look back at your own accomplishments, you’ll understand this better. Would it have been the same if someone simply handed you the solution? Of course not.
Our challenges do bring opportunities and we all have God-given intelligence to help us. It is tragic when a well-meaning person steals another person’s power by dictating choices. That is one reason why practitioners are prohibited from using prayer to change people’s behavior unless they request it. It is only one of the many reasons.
Most practitioners who encountered a client like the mother in my opening anecdote would respond by acknowledging the mother’s love. Then the practitioner would gently lead the mother to rephrasing her request so that, instead of outlining behavior for another person, we simply pray for the highest and best for her son. Most would also pray for the Mom to accept greater clarity and peace of mind for herself.
Whether or not we are practitioners, there are good reasons for anyone to avoid attempting prayer as a means of controlling other people’s behavior. However, it is very difficult to watch our loved ones struggle when answers seem so clear.
We are not completely helpless when dealing with the destructive behavior patterns of others. We always have some point of control. The mother’s behavior may be an influence on her son and she has control of that.
Let me cite another example of my point about where control might exist. I may think Aunt Mabel needs to stop gambling but is really not my decision. However, I can stop loaning my dear Auntie money. I may also stop hosting Saturday night family poker parties. I may also refuse to drive her to the Casino.
Generally, people with addictions will try to involve their loved ones. There is a name for the person who gives an alcoholic money to buy booze; she is called an “enabler”. If she is serious, the enabler can always change her behavior and that may impact the addict’s behavior.
The cook who bakes that special cookie recipe for Cousin Charlotte and then talks about how fat she is, is either not sincere or very confused. At best, that cook is enabling Charlotte to eat wrong. It isn’t really loving as people think to offer a fat person that “especially for you” dish. As a person who struggled to lose my 115 pounds, I can assure you that dieting is consistently sabotaged by friends and relatives.
Before you criticize anyone’s self-destructive behavior, it is good to look at the ways you are supporting those self-destructive patterns. Even if your intention is to be loving, you may be enabling.
If you really want to help someone make new choices, there are some things you can do. You can stop criticizing and you can also stop enabling. You can also do some non-directive prayer work for others. As long as you are not trying to impose your will on your loved one, I believe you will be within the limits of spiritual protocol.
Here are two simple, non-invasive prayers which I have used effectively for situations. The first one is all about releasing relationships that no longer work. Dr. Carol Carnes, helped me with this many years ago and I will always be grateful. I was in a mostly-negative relationship for eleven years. When I consulted Dr. Carol, I’d already moved 3000 miles away but I was still constantly thinking about Mr. X.
Negative relationships can become habitual and create a kind of recurring, sticky unhappiness. I was actually mourning my dream and I felt as though I had no control over my emotions. My regrets included anger, grief, and a sense of loss. I wanted to move on but didn’t know how.
Dr. Carol was a beginning practitioner then but she was already very wise. She told me to say, “I release Mr. X to his highest good” every time I thought about him.
I did that for a few weeks and soon, I truly was able to let go of him and my broken dreams. By praying for his highest good, I achieved true release. It helped me and it could only bring him good.
I have taught others that same simple prayer and seen it work for them. The prayer creates forward movement and release of your negative emotions as you also release the person. I believe it works so well because you are actually praying for their best, not allowing your static emotions swelter and stew.
It’s so easy. Just say, “I release Charlie (or Suzi or Elmer) to his highest and best good.” Say this every time you think about this person and you will find that you really are able to move on quickly.
I have also used this next prayer many times. I have frequently recommended it to other frustrated parents and grandparents. I use it when I feel helpless and the person refuses my offers for help and ignores my advice.
With this prayer, you get to continue the loving relationship without interfering while the prayer protects your loved one.
It is also very simple. Every time you begin to worry about your loved one, say, “The Love of God surrounds Elmer (or Suzi or Charlie), the Light of God infuses him and the wisdom of God guides him every step of the way.”
I love this prayer because it guides, protects and loves without pushing people into a particular behavior they are not ready to embrace.
Relationships are tricky. You must love others in order to have a full and rewarding life. You cannot always escape pain and you cannot live another person’s life for him or her. Like I say, it’s tricky.
When we know that God is an ever-present help in our life and in the life of our loved one, things can get better fast. While we must each take responsibility for our own choices, love does support us in wonderful ways. There have been many times when people’s prayers have helped me open up to the next step in my own spiritual journey. Your prayers can also help others as well as benefit yourself.
Am I enabling anyone now?
Is there any behavior I want to change?
Is there anyone I want to pray for?