Life has a way of getting us into places where we stand face-to-face with our own weakness. These are the places where we just can’t do it on our own, no matter how hard we try.
Addiction can plunge us into these situations. Whether we are addicted ourselves, or struggling to support an addicted loved one, we see that we are no match for the task ahead.
And that is OK.
By design, our choices will inevitably take us through dark and shadowy experiences. Nobody escapes this life without trial, affliction, and heartache, often of our own making. Whether we learn as a child or a seasoned adult with decades of addiction or other hardship behind us, we must grasp the ultimate lesson of mortality: The Savior is not the backup plan. He is the plan. His love is constant and He stands ready to help us no matter what we did before or what we’ll do after.
When we finally stop clinging to that life preserver of spiritual self-reliance and reach our hand up to the Savior, we can truly begin our recovery journey.
But how do we do that? How do we make that connection with Jesus Christ so that He can do His mighty work in us? For most, that journey begins with prayer.
The Power of Prayer
Prayer may seem like the simplest answer out there. You may have been bowing your head and folding your arms since before you could even speak, but most of us spend a lifetime learning how to fully tap into the power of prayer.
Prayer is the most powerful of all tools but among the most underutilized, too. You can rise from your daily prayer nearly unaffected, or you can rise up with a mighty change of heart. Here are some ideas for improving your daily prayers. They have helped countless people who have passed through our LDS drug treatment centers in Utah and Idaho, and they also can help you. When you turn these suggestions into habits, they can help you make a deeper connection with deity on your addiction recovery journey, rather than simply going through the motions.
Big Ideas for Better Prayers
1. Invite Him in.
You may have been praying for your addiction to end for years, and yet, you’re still addicted. So why pray?
We do not only pray for a desired outcome. The calculus of what blessing is granted and when is known only to God. We can expect Him to answer every prayer in a way that is for our ultimate benefit, but we can’t demand miracles or quick results.
What we can do is invite Him into our struggles. That’s what the apostle Paul did amidst his beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonments. How could you possibly be at peace while living a life like his? And yet, he testified of peace that “surpasseth understanding” (Bible, King James Version, Philippians 4:7). The unfortunate circumstances of his life couldn’t have given him that kind of peace, but the Savior could.
Pray to invite the Lord to walk with you and strengthen you for the journey ahead—whatever it may entail. You will find that you can endure anything when the Savior is walking by your side.
2. Think relationships.
How close do you feel to that high school friend you lost contact with 15 years ago? You’d probably be struggling to find common ground if you ran into them again. Relationships are built on time and shared experience. It will be hard to develop a relationship with God and Jesus Christ if you aren’t devoting much time to them.
Daily prayer is perhaps the most powerful investment we can make into our relationship with deity. As you pray daily, the Lord will notice your desire reflected in your consistent efforts, and, as has been said by President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “the Lord loves effort.”
3. Decide when.
Deciding when you will pray is half the battle, and if it happens at a consistent time each day, so much the better. Will it be right when you get out of bed in the morning? In the parking lot when you pull in for work? In the parking lot before you drive home?
Praying at a consistent time will guide your muscle memory and help you develop a strong habit of prayer. Small, tactical things can help keep you on track: set a daily alarm on your phone or put a sign on your bathroom mirror.
4. Decide where.
Some places are more conducive to prayer than others. Choose to pray in a place that is free of distractions and enables you to really pour out your soul.
5. Pray aloud.
As you decide on a place to pray, choose one where you can actually pray out loud without worrying about other people hearing you (in your car, behind a closed door in your study or closet, in the outdoors).
Prayers can be so much more effective when you speak them with expression, just as if you were actually speaking to another person. If you’re in your home and still worried about your voice carrying, you can even turn on white noise on your phone as a buffer.
6. Keep a prayer journal.
If you find your mind wandering during prayer, a prayer journal can help anchor your thoughts so that they don’t flit about like a bird. Jot down things you are thankful for and in need of (for yourself and for others). This can help organize your thoughts before you begin your prayer.
7. Pray always.
While setting a time for prayer can help ensure that it happens regularly, don’t limit yourself to just that formal prayer time. There’s strength in having short conversations with God wherever you are throughout the day. Just had a fight with your spouse? Say a prayer. Feeling strong urges to use? Say a prayer. Feeling regret for past mistakes? Say a prayer.
8. Express gratitude.
As you battle addiction, you may feel overwhelmed by the needs and weaknesses that swirl within you. But pull your mind out of that place for a minute and take the time to express gratitude.
Even on days when your whole life feels like it’s in shreds, you will find some golden threads. They may be simple: the sun in the sky, the fact that you can breathe, the blessing of living in a free country. Gratitude pulls our attention from inward to upward, which is where we want it to be.
It’s natural to think of repentance as something to dread—a great admission of failure. But we love the phrase “daily joyful repentance.” As you battle addiction (or love someone who does), this phrase becomes particularly beautiful.
Repentance should be infused with hope in the person we can become through the Savior. Messed up on your road to recovery today? Repent quickly and joyfully, focusing on what you can become tomorrow because of the atonement.
The Lord is keenly aware of the fact that you can’t just snap your fingers and make a long-standing addiction go away. He knows there will be good days and bad days on your journey to sobriety. His atonement allows you to feel “a perfect brightness of hope” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 31:20) in what can be, not despair about what has been. He can work with any degree of sin, but he can’t work with a heart that won’t turn to him through repentance.
President Nelson said, “The Savior is never closer to you than when you are facing or climbing a mountain with faith.” Addiction can feel like an Everest-size mountain, but when you pray, you’re inviting the ultimate traveling companion to help you with each step.
If you’re not leveraging the full power of prayer to help with your addiction recovery journey, our staff at Utah’s Renaissance Ranch Christian-based rehabilitation center challenges you to start today.